RNAi-based therapeutic strategies for metabolic disease

Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2011 Apr 19;7(8):473-84. doi: 10.1038/nrendo.2011.57.


RNA interference (RNAi) is a robust gene silencing mechanism that degrades mRNAs complementary to the antisense strands of double-stranded, short interfering RNAs (siRNAs). As a therapeutic strategy, RNAi has an advantage over small-molecule drugs, as virtually all genes are susceptible to targeting by siRNA molecules. This advantage is, however, counterbalanced by the daunting challenge of achieving safe, effective delivery of oligonucleotides to specific tissues in vivo. Lipid-based carriers of siRNA therapeutics can now target the liver in metabolic diseases and are being assessed in clinical trials for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia. For this indication, a chemically modified oligonucleotide that targets endogenous small RNA modulators of gene expression (microRNAs) is also under investigation in clinical trials. Emerging 'self-delivery' siRNAs that are covalently linked to lipophilic moieties show promise for the future development of therapies. Besides the liver, inflammation of the adipose tissue in patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus may be an attractive target for siRNA therapeutics. Administration of siRNAs encapsulated within glucan microspheres can silence genes in inflammatory phagocytic cells, as can certain lipid-based carriers of siRNA. New technologies that combine siRNA molecules with antibodies or other targeting molecules also appear encouraging. Although still at an early stage, the emergence of RNAi-based therapeutics has the potential to markedly influence our clinical future.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy
  • Gene Transfer Techniques*
  • Genetic Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Diseases / genetics
  • Metabolic Diseases / metabolism
  • Metabolic Diseases / therapy
  • Metabolic Syndrome / genetics*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism
  • Metabolic Syndrome / therapy*
  • RNA Interference*