Just as the use of RNA interference has mushroomed throughout the world over the last six years, the number of bioinformatics tools to screen for siRNA has blossomed, too. More than a half-dozen proprietary and open-source programs are available, many sponsored by siRNA and reagent vendors.

So Jonathan Rux, a bioinformatician at the Wistar Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, was surprised to find that all these resources lacked a critical tool: They didn't account for gene specificity. Selecting siRNA is more complicated than choosing a code complementary to the sequence of the RNA to be silenced, because siRNA can sometimes silence multiple genes and its effects can often be unpredictable, Rux says.

That's why Rux and his colleague, Natasha Levenkova, designed the siRNA Selector. "It allows you to select an siRNA that not only silences your gene, but ensures that you're not setting off some incidental chain reaction...

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