An introduction to RNA

RNA is present in all known life forms and plays an essential role in numerous biological processes, including transcription (where genetic code stored in DNA is converted to a more transportable RNA-based format), translation (of proteins that are also essential for life), and interference (e.g., to regulate gene expression).

Consequently, RNA molecules are being studied as potential products in many fields, such as agriculture (for pest control), animal health, and human health (messenger RNA-based vaccines and gene therapies).

RNA is transformative for human health and plant health:

  • Human health—where messenger RNA (mRNA) can be used to teach cells how to make a protein, which forms the basis of vaccines (where the protein triggers an immune response) and other therapies (e.g., where the protein replaces a defective or missing one in individuals with genetic diseases).
  • Plant health—where the natural process for recycling RNA double-stranded RNA, or dsRNA, can be leveraged to regulate target protein expression. Such protein expression can form the basis for targeted pesticides or protect against parasites (e.g protecting bee hives from Varroa mites)