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  1. Nov 30, 2011 #1
    Slow Pace of RNA RESEARCH WHY???

    I was talking to a grad student in my lab the other day and we couldn't agree on why it take so long to discover gene regulation by RNA processing? I mean we knew about DNA and RNA decades ago why did it take so long to figure out that they can be regulated backwards?

    So the grad student told me that it was Crick's fault because of his central dogma theory and got everyone going in the wrong direction. Which Ididn't agree. What do you guys think?

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 30, 2011 #2


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    Re: Slow Pace of RNA RESEARCH WHY???

    Do you mean something other than reverse transcription (discovered 1970), RNA splicing (1977), or ribozymes (early 1980s)?

    Wikipedia says the idea of ribozymes goes back to 1967, citing Woese, Crick and Orgel.

    The current burst of research probably starts with the discovery of RNAi in 1998 (gosh, is it already 2011, that's more a steady stream than a burst). Yet one must remember that similar mechanisms were already known in plants quite a bit before that http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC157182/

    I just looked up Wikipedia, and apparently, miRNAs were first seen in 1993.
    Last edited: Nov 30, 2011
  4. Dec 1, 2011 #3


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    Re: Slow Pace of RNA RESEARCH WHY???

    One reason why it took so long to discover the important roles for small RNAs (e.g. micro RNAs) in gene regulation is that these regulatory RNAs are very small and the techniques for analyzing cellular RNAs (e.g. gel electrophoresis) would literally throw away the small RNAs (the small regulatory RNAs would run off the end of the gel). Even if scientists observed them, most would disregard the small regulatory RNAs as degradation products of larger RNA species rather than functional molecules. It wasn't until the demonstration that miRNAs can regulate gene expression and the discovery of siRNA that people began to realize that small RNAs within the cell could actually be doing something important.

    I do think old dogmas in molecular biology may have hindered the discovery of regulatory roles for RNA, but I don't necessarily think that it is completely due to Crick's central dogma. Molecular biology used to be very protein centric, with most believing that proteins performed most of the main tasks in the cell. RNA (perhaps because of the central dogma) was simply viewed as an intermediate with limited roles in transcription. Now, of course, we realize that while proteins are indeed important in gene regulation, they are not the only players; RNAs play a just as important, if not more important, role.
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