RNA: How Physicians and Researchers are using RNA to Solve Today’s Medical Problems

Brendan Long
Team angelMD

Toted by Steven Dowdy of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine as “the future of medicine,” RNA therapeutics are an emerging class of drugs with immense potential. RNA based drugs have been in development for over 20 years and have recently seen some incredible results that are opening the door for RNA to emerge as a prominent and powerful drug class. How will this affect the cardiology market? Recent clinical results have shown that RNA development is a field to watch closely.

A prominent example comes from Imperial College London, where researchers recently finished the largest trial yet in measuring the safety and effectiveness of RNA interference (RNAi) therapy. RNAi therapy effectively turns off one of the genes associated with elevated cholesterol levels. In the trial, researchers found that one month after receiving a single treatment of inclisiran, participants’ LDL cholesterol levels had reduced by over 50 percent. Six months following this single treatment, participant’s cholesterol levels had reduced 42 percent, while in a matched placebo group, cholesterol levels had increased two percent. In all patients across different dosages and frequencies, cholesterol levels fell for at least eight months and no additional side effects were seen when compared to the placebo group.

RNA is also being increasingly used as a diagnostic tool. A leading example of how RNA can be leveraged as a testing method comes from angelMD’s own Ischemia Care. Ischemia Care has developed a test that isolates RNA from whole blood and examines immune responses with the goal of determining where ischemic strokes develop in a patient’s body. In an estimated one-third of cases, doctors aren’t able to identify a cause for a stroke. Ischemia Care’s “ISCDX” test serves to help determine whether the stroke originated in the heart or in the blood vessels, which has a “huge impact on how patients are treated and on preventing recurrent strokes,” according to CEO Jeff June. On top of pinpointing the location where strokes develop, Ischemia Care also can determine whether or not ischemic strokes that originate in the heart are caused by atrial fibrillation.

RNA is a developing and intriguing topic in healthcare that has shown potential in both testing and treatment, and investors have taken notice. One private company, Moderna Therapeutics, has reportedly raised nearly $2 billion to develop a “platform for inventing new RNA treatments. For a long time, the main obstacle facing RNA therapeutics was cost. Companies like Alnylam dug over a billion dollars into research without releasing a single tangible product.

People like former Alnylam senior executive Rachel Meyers, however, are starting to realize the place for RNA drugs in healthcare. Meyers sees RNA therapeutics as being versatile in its ability to tackle unique problems. About RNA therapies Meyers believes, “It’s those ones that don’t have a good alternative where you say, ‘Oh my gosh, we can really change the world, or someone’s life, with this.’”

In the long-time stagnant field of RNA therapeutics, people are starting to see results. This makes RNA a topic to watch closely.

Sources:
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603871/how-a-boys-lazarus-like-revival-points-to-a-new-generation-of-drugs/
http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_17-3-2017-14-40-10

A new blood test could help doctors pinpoint the cause of a stroke

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