The discovery and characterization of the RNA interference (RNAi) pathway has been one of the most important scientific developments of the last 12 years. RNAi is a cellular pathway wherein small RNAs control the expression of genes by either degrading homologous RNAs or preventing the translation of RNAs with partial homology. It has impacted basic biology on two major fronts. The first is the discovery of microRNAs (miRNAs), which regulate almost every cellular process and are required for some viral infections, including hepatitis C virus (HCV). The second front is the use of small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) as the first robust tool for mammalian cellular genetics. This has led to the identification of hundreds of cellular genes that are important for HCV infection. There is now a major push to adapt RNAi technology to the clinic. In this review, we explore the impact of RNAi in understanding HCV biology, the progress in design of RNAi-based therapeutics for HCV, and remaining obstacles.
Keywords: RNA interference; hepatitis C virus; siRNA therapy.