AUG 12, 2021 4:00 PM PDT

New Process for Making Pure Synthetic RNA

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Researchers may have found a way to create synthetic RNA that is more “pure” and cost-effective than previous approaches, expanding opportunities for medicine and therapeutics.

According to research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, the development of synthetic RNA has been challenging in the past. Especially in therapeutics and medicine, synthetic RNA needs to be “purified” to avoid health risks to a potential recipient. However, researchers noted that “current purification methods often fail to fully eliminate these impurities which, if present in therapeutics, can stimulate the innate immune response with potentially fatal consequences.” 

The authors of the study believe they’ve found a way to avoid the need for purification altogether and produce “clean” RNA the first time around. Their approach, which involves using a higher salinity solution for manufacturing RNA, prevents the unregulated and unwanted growth of RNA, allowing the new RNA to remain more “pure.” 

This new approach also yields far more RNA than existing methods and has less production time, which may point to a more cost-effective solution for RNA synthesis.

The new RNA production model developed by researchers holds promise in a growing field of medicine known as RNA therapeutics, which may offer new ways of treating genetic conditions. Many diseases are caused by genetic abnormalities, ranging from metabolic diseases to neurological ones, such as Huntington’s disease. These diseases are caused when flawed genetic instructions make proteins incorrectly (or not at all). As a result, the body can’t function the way it’s supposed to. For example, cells can’t remove waste or perform important cellular functions without functioning proteins. Gene therapies have been a common therapeutic approach for treating some of these conditions, which provide cells with genetic information (DNA) that produces proteins correctly.

However, existing gene therapies do nothing to interfere with the actual production of incorrect proteins. 

RNA-based therapies may offer a way to intervene with this process. Because RNA is the mechanism that actually delivers the instructions for making proteins throughout a cell, RNA-based therapies may directly affect aberrant protein production. 

The authors of the study note that more research is needed to develop their process into something that can create enough RNA regularly to meet the growing demand for RNA therapeutics.

Sources: Science Daily; Journal of Biological Chemistry; Frontiers

About the Author
  • Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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