The RNA interference (RNAi) is a biological process by which a double stranded RNA (dsRNA also called small interfering RNA - siRNA) triggers the sequence-dependent degradation of a target RNA within the cellular environment. Thus siRNAs can be used to combat the expression of deleterious gene(s) causing disease or to destroy invading pathogen RNAs. Despite their enormous therapeutic potential, the use of siRNA as drugs presents two major problems: the difficulties to identify optimal delivery systems and the possible induction of different unwanted side effects. In this review, after presenting an overview about the mechanisms ruling the process of RNAi, we focus the attention on the description of the strategies developed to optimise systemic siRNA delivery; in this sense, considerations about the attempts to improve siRNA stability in the biological environment, the development of synthetic vectors for siRNA delivery, the siRNA bio-distribution and pharmacokinetics together with the selection of siRNA targeted delivery systems, are discussed. Since in the optimisation of the siRNA delivery systems the minimization of siRNA side effects should not be neglected, in the last part of the review we consider the problems related to the possible induction of siRNA mediated side effects focusing on the so called microRNA like off-targeting.
Keywords: siRNA, siRNA delivery, bio-distribution, miRNA, off-targeting, RNAi interference, C. elegans, DICER, seed region, RISC, Exportin 5
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