RNA interference (RNAi) is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism for silencing gene expression by targeted degradation of mRNA. Short double-stranded RNAs, known as small interfering RNAs (siRNA), are incorporated into an RNA-induced silencing complex that directs degradation of RNA containing a homologous sequence. RNAi has been shown to work in mammalian cells, and can inhibit viral infection and control tumor cell growth in vitro. Recently, it has been shown that intravenous injection of siRNA or of plasmids expressing sequences processed to siRNA can protect mice from autoimmune and viral hepatitis. RNAi could provide an exciting new therapeutic modality for treating infection, cancer, neurodegenerative disease and other illnesses.