Wired asks: The Next Big Thing for RNA?

Wired magazine's Nov. 8, 2021, article "The Next Big Thing for RNA: Fixing Moldy Food?" by Matt Reynolds explores and explains the development of RNAi pesticides, and includes discussion of our work at RNAissance Ag.

The article notes: "Our addiction to chemical pesticides comes with a bunch of downsides. New sprays made from RNA might offer a smarter, cleaner way to wage war on pests."

Here's an excerpt (emphasis added): 

"This new generation of pesticides is based on a cellular trick that dates back more than a billion years, at least as far as the last common ancestor of animals, plants, fungi, and protists. At some point—we’re not exactly sure when—cells evolved the ability to chop up and destroy genetic material from invading pathogens, like viruses. When a cell detects the presence of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA)—a stretch of genetic code that viruses use to duplicate themselves—it hacks this dsRNA up into tiny pieces. These chunks of dsRNA are like teeny-tiny wanted posters. Molecules in the cell pick them up and use them to hunt down any matching stretches of messenger RNA (mRNA)—the molecules cells use to turn genetic instructions into proteins. If the molecular bad guys get chopped up before they can start being made into proteins, the cell will have headed off a successful invasion.

"The discovery of this process—called RNA interference (RNAi)—earned two scientists the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. It also sparked a race to develop new tools based on it. Scientists soon realized that if you could introduce dsRNA into a pesky pathogen—a particularly irritating fungus, for example—you could instruct that pathogen’s cells to destroy its own mRNA and stop it from making crucial proteins. In essence, they could switch off genes within pathogens at will. “We’re just going in there and looking at the orchestra of genes and proteins out there and we’re silencing the violins. That’s all we’re doing,” says Michael Helmstetter, chair of RNAissance Ag, another startup vying to bring RNA crop sprays to the market.

"A handful of RNA sprays are already in the works. RNAissance Ag is working on a spray that targets the diamondback moth, which has an insatiable appetite for cabbages and has already evolved some resistance to common pesticides."

Read the full article: https://www.wired.com/story/rna-crop-sprays-presticides/

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