smallRNA in disease & development

Because smallRNAs are the focus of much research worldwide, the decisive role of smallRNAs in disease and development is becoming increasingly evident.

smallRNA in disease

Since smallRNAs play an important role in disease processes, they also offer the chance to use them as biomarkers for diseases. An example of this is virus infections in plants.
Sometimes commercial plants harbor unwanted viruses. For many plant-breeding companies early and accurate detection of viruses in their breeding material is essential. Although several plant-virus detection methods, such as ELISA, are available, each of them has its own limitations. A major drawback is that one needs to know which virus is present in order to use the correct test and each virus requires a specific test. Another drawback is the fact that many detection methods identify the virus particles itself, whereas many viruses can “hide” themselves quite effectively. An easy method to detect the presence of any known virus anywhere in a plant would be very handy.
Silencing-RNAs (siRNAs) are small RNA molecules of 21-24 nucleotides that are abundantly present in plant cells. siRNA has recently been recognized as pivotal in the immune response of plants to virus infection. An important aspect of the siRNA response is that it normally spreads throughout the whole plant, even if the virus is contained to one tissue. Hence, detection of specific siRNAs anywhere in the plant suggests a suspected virus infection of the plant.
One research project is focused on how to employ the plant siRNA virus response to detect known viruses and discover unknown viruses.

Other research projects involve:

  • smallRNAs related to viruses in mammalian systems
  • cell-free smallRNAs in intracellular bacterial infections

smallRNA in development

smallRNAs are abundantly present in milk. This raises the question whether these smallRNAs have an immunological role in the offspring or have an antibacterial effect.

Point of contact for this research line

Dr. T.M.Breit
t.m.breit at uva.nl
T 020-525-7058