A new era in genetics started 17 years ago, when co-suppression in petunia was discovered. Later, co-suppression was identified as RNA interference (RNAi) in many plant and lower eukaryote animals. Although an ancient antiviral host defense mechanism in plants, the physiologic role of RNAi in mammals is still not completely understood. RNAi is directed by short interfering RNAs (siRNAs), one subtype of short double stranded RNAs. In this review we summarize the history and mechanisms of RNAi. We also aim to highlight the correlation between structure and efficacy of siRNAs. Delivery is the most important obstacle for siRNA based gene therapy. Viral and nonviral deliveries are discussed. In vivo delivery is the next obstacle to clinical trials with siRNAs. Although hydrodynamic treatment is effective in animals, it cannot be used in human therapy. One possibility is organ selective catheterization. The known side effects of synthesized siRNAs are also discussed. Although there are many problems to face in this new field of gene therapy, successful in vitro and in vivo experiments raise hope for treating human disease with siRNA.
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