Whew! More Human Lives Saved by Mice!!
Scientists were testing a new treatment for Hepatitis B, called RNA interference, on a large number of mice, when a large number of them died after treatment.
RNA interference, aka RNAi, is becoming a widely used technique in laboratories. Essentially, what RNAi does is silence genes. It’s a relatively new form of gene therapy. It can be used (and is already being tested in humans in some cases), as a treatment for disease by silencing the genes that cause a particular disease. In today’s case they were trying to silence hepatitis B genes.
Unfortunately they saw rapid liver toxicity in a significant portion of the mice. While this serves as a setback to the scientist’s research, some of the cases were successful in turning off the Hepatitis B genes, and the mice lived.
After reanalyzing the data, the scientists realized that the dosage seemed to be partially related to the toxic effects. It also appeared that a new technique they had employed for delivering the RNAi, may not work as well as they thought, and might in fact be toxic.
So it may be back to the drawing board for the scientists- at least in looking for a new delivery method. But the good news is, some mice did recover. Perhaps with some tweaking, they may find a new way to treat Hepatitis B.
I am thankful that mice were trialed for this treatment. If they hadn’t have been used, it could have been one of us being tested for this new RNAi, and subsequently suffering liver poisoning. Luckily, for every human, the laws allow us to use mice for this purpose, and the mice caught a potentially deadly side effect, before it could be passed for use in humans. Three cheers for lab mice and new medical treatments!
For More Details: New York Times article
posted by Kristina Cook at 1:37 PM