Therapeutic RNA interference for neurodegenerative diseases: From promise to progress

Pharmacol Ther. 2007 Apr;114(1):34-55. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2007.01.003. Epub 2007 Jan 25.


RNA interference (RNAi) has emerged as a powerful tool to manipulate gene expression in the laboratory. Due to its remarkable discriminating properties, individual genes, or even alleles can be targeted with exquisite specificity in cultured cells or living animals. Among its many potential biomedical applications, silencing of disease-linked genes stands out as a promising therapeutic strategy for many incurable disorders. Neurodegenerative diseases represent one of the more attractive targets for the development of therapeutic RNAi. In this group of diseases, the progressive loss of neurons leads to the gradual appearance of disabling neurological symptoms and premature death. Currently available therapies aim to improve the symptoms but not to halt the process of neurodegeneration. The increasing prevalence and economic burden of some of these diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD) or Parkinson's disease (PD), has boosted the efforts invested in the development of interventions, such as RNAi, aimed at altering their natural course. This review will summarize where we stand in the therapeutic application of RNAi for neurodegenerative diseases. The basic principles of RNAi will be reviewed, focusing on features important for its therapeutic manipulation. Subsequently, a stepwise strategy for the development of therapeutic RNAi will be presented. Finally, the different preclinical trials of therapeutic RNAi completed in disease models will be summarized, stressing the experimental questions that need to be addressed before planning application in human disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / therapy*
  • RNA / pharmacology
  • RNA / therapeutic use
  • RNA Interference*


  • RNA