TECHNICAL KNOCKOUT: A Cy3-labeled siRNA targeting B-actin was transfected into HeLa cells and protein expression was analyzed 96-hours later. Red, Cy3-labeled siRNA; Blue: DAPI-stained nuclei; Green, B-actin protein. (siRNA was prepared and labeled using Ambion's Silencer siRNA construction kit and labeling kit, respectively).

RNA interference, or RNAi, is all the rage these days. According to the Web of Science database (ISI, Philadelphia), the number of articles on the topic jumped from nine in 1998 to 229 in 2002. Why all the fuss? Because RNAi, or more broadly, posttranscriptional gene silencing, provides a simple way to knock out genes in vivo in organisms as varied as plants, worms, flies, and mice (see explanatory box).

Nobel laureate Phillip Sharp, professor and director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), calls RNAi the most important breakthrough in the past decade. At the National Cancer Institute of...

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