RNA interference technology, which is used in cell biology, has revolutionised
functional research of the gene products in the last ten years. VTT Technical
Research Centre of Finland has developed a method which allows a single
microchip to be used to screen the functions of tens of thousands of genes
simultaneously by means of RNA interference. Traditional methods only allow a
few hundred genes to be screened with each microplate, and therefore the new
method will accelerate VTT’s service offering in the field of drug development.
“VTT has already tested the method on a panel of almost one hundred cancer
cell types and found it to be both efficient and reliable. We have used the
method especially in breast cancer and prostate cancer studies,” explains Juha
Rantala, a research scientist at VTT and the founder of the method.
The primary benefit of the method is that it allows such a large number of
samples to be analysed simultaneously, which saves both money and human
resources, and speeds up research considerably. The findings of the study were
published in March 2011 in BMC Genomics, a journal specialising in the
methodologies of genetic research.
Miniaturised cell spot microarray techniques, which are used to analyse the
functioning of cells, have featured in drug development at VTT for a few years
now, and they are both an important research tool and a development priority.
Ultra-high throughput screening (UHTS) techniques are used at VTT to study how
one gene or groups of genes regulate the cell activities, and how the cell
functions promote health, or cause illnesses. RNA interference technology
allows genes to be “silenced” and thereby inhibit protein production of genes.
Potential future use of RNAi technology includes also the diagnosis and
treatment of illnesses.
The unique method developed by VTT is
mostly used in genomic-scale analyses which have previously been very
expensive. The new technology is believed to give VTT a competitive advantage
in genome research which is of special interest of the drug industry. Other
potential applications include studying the combined effects of genes and
drugs. Research scientists at VTT have also cited the method previously in a
scientific publication focusing on the cell division of breast cancer cells.
The method is believed to significantly boost VTT’s commercial activities with
the drug industry.
Reference: Juha K Rantala, Rami
Mäkelä, Anna-Riina Aaltola, Petra Laasola, John-Patrick Mpindi, Matthias Nees,
Petri Saviranta, and Olli Kallioniemi. A cell spot microarray method for
production of high density siRNA transfection microarrays. BMC Genomics 2011,