Programming cells to fight disease

New research has shown that ribonucleic acid (RNA) can be genetically engineered to allow scientists to programme the actions of a cell. As well as fighting disease and injury in humans, this technique could also be used to control plant cells and reverse environmental and agricultural issues, making plants more resilient to disease and pests. In this research, undertaken at the University of Warwick, Professor Alfonso Jaramillo and his team have shown that these molecules can be produced and organised into tailor-made sequences of commands, similar to codes for computer software.

Similar to software running on a computer, or apps on a mobile device, many different RNA sequences could be created to empower cells with a ‘virtual machine’, able to interpret a universal RNA language, and to perform specific actions to address different diseases or problems, and facilitate personalised and efficient healthcare.