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RNAi to Keep the Pests Away

Researchers have developed a new RNA-based vaccine in the hope that it can take the place of chemical pesticides, Digital Trends reports.

A team of researchers from the University of Helsinki and the University of Strasbourg engineered an in vivo dsRNA replication system in bacteria that produces long double-stranded RNA that targets pathogen genes. As the team reports in the Plant Biotechnology Journal, it applied the system to Nicotiana benthamiana that had been infected with tobacco mosaic virus and it stopped the virus from propagating.

In their paper, Strasbourg's Manfred Heinlein and his colleagues write that their system could be adapted to target other sequences and "has great potential to permit therapeutic dsRNAs to be designed and produced for large-scale crop protection against different viral and fungal pathogens, and insect pests."

Digital Trends adds that this RNA interference-based pesticide would provide plants with a defense against pathogens without the damage chemical pesticides have on the surrounding environment.

"It would be great to see this technology further developed and commercialized," Heinlein tells Digital Trends, noting, though, that they've only tested it so far in a small proof-of-concept study using a model plant and virus system.