The miRNA Replacement Therapy being developed by Mirna Therapeutics is based on the re-introduction of synthetic miRNA into cancerous cells to replace the natural miRNA that was lost. The synthetic miRNA mimics the gene regulation function of natural miRNA by activating dormant pathways through which therapeutic agents can target the diseased cells. This stops the uncontrolled development of new cancer cells and triggers automatic death of existing cancer cells.
Researchers discovered that miRNA plays an important role in a process known as transcription. In order for genetic information to be transmitted to new cells, it must first be transferred from DNA to messenger RNA. Using one of the two strands of the DNA as a template, the messenger RNA receives a signal to start making a strand of RNA that is complementary to the DNA template strand. When the RNA reaches a certain signal on the DNA template strand, it stops the transcription process. The new RNA strand now undergoes post-transcriptional processing during which it transfers the coding to create the proteins for new DNA. It is the miRNA that acts as the on/off switch in protein production. If the miRNA in the cell is lost, the cell overexpresses proteins and it becomes cancerous.
There are some specific advantages to the type of miRNA Replacement Therapy used by Mirna Therapeutics. Since its miRNA is a mimic, it has the same sequence as the natural miRNA found in cells. That means that it targets the same genes as natural MIRNA, eliminating the possibility of the therapy not hitting its intended target. Also, Mirna’s miRNA therapies are derived from healthy cells, if the therapy is accidentally applied to a healthy cell during treatment; it is very unlikely that it will result in toxicity.
Mirna Therapeutics will be presenting its products and technologies at OneMedForum SF 2012, on January 9 – 12.