To understand the role of individual genes in regulating biological processes, one must be able to interfere specifically with either their expression or function. While monoclonal antibodies have proven very useful in studying cell surface proteins, the specific inhibition of intracellular proteins in viable cells is a much more difficult problem. The goal of antisense technology is to develop small oligonucleotides, plasmids, or retroviral vectors which can be readily introduced into living cells in order to inhibit specific gene expression. In this review, we briefly describe the principles of antisense usage, including problems of cellular uptake and intracellular distribution, mechanism of antisense action, and the properties of various oligonucleotide derivatives. In addition we present several examples of the biological effects of antisense administration used to study the role of specific genes in the regulation of cell growth and differentiation.