MicroRNA medicines can be used to treat complex diseases like cancer that are caused by many different malfunctioning proteins.
MicroRNAs are small RNAs that naturally occur in humans, and many other animals, and regulate how much protein is made from messenger RNA (mRNA). Each microRNA can target hundreds of different mRNAs and so can regulate entire networks of genes.
MicroRNAs are one of several classes of small RNA molecules involved in a mechanism called RNA interference or RNAi. MicroRNAs, small interfering RNAs and antisense RNAs can all bind to mRNA and prevent it from being translated into protein.
However, unlike other small RNAs, microRNAs can also work to increase the amount of protein made from mRNA. This means that microRNA medicines can be used to treat diseases like cancer that have too much of some proteins but too little of others.