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About Kevin

Kevin has spent more than three decades teaching undergraduate human anatomy & physiology. He has also been writing A&P textbooks and related works. He is a President Emeritus of the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS) and was founding director of the HAPS Institute. He also teaches graduate courses and workshops for those who teach A&P.

The A&P Professor is another way Kevin has found to promote sharing among A&P teachers worldwide.

Minor imperfections enhance the handcrafted uniqueness of this website.

 

RNA interference

I was once asked why our A&P textbook (Anatomy & Physiology 7th edition) includes information about RNA interference (RNAi) while most other A&P textbooks do not.   Why do students need to know about that?

This question is almost certainly triggered by the questioner's years of experience teaching A&P successfully without mentioning RNAi or its roles in human biology. 

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?   Good advice in general, I guess, but this maxim does not apply to the idea that we need to continually update our courses in order to serve our students well.

The recent discovery in 1998 of RNAi and its functions is one reason it has been slow to enter the commonly taught A&P curriculum.  But its important role in human biology is now widely recognized.

What is RNA interference (RNAi)?

It is a recently discovered process in cells that stops the action of specific genes by destroying mRNA and thus preventing translation of the gene product.

The diagram below summarizes the process of RNAi:

RNA interference

Click image for source and link to high-resolution image

In Anatomy & Physiology 7th edition is explained and illustrated in a full-page boxed essay entitled The RNA Revolution on p. 112 (see also pp. 58 and 111).

Here are a few (of many) reasons that including RNAi in an A&P course is useful:

How deeply to cover RNA interference in a beginning A&P course? I think mentioning what it is—in simple terms—and some of its primary functions in humans is quite enough. Although my two-semester A&P textbook does provide a diagram of the steps involved, that is meant more as a help in visualizing it as a process and not necessarily as a "you need to know every detail of this process" illustration.

Simple coverage is enough to introduce beginning students sufficiently to be prepared for their inevitable later encounters with RNAi.

Teaching Resources

This article written for public consumption summarizes the discovery of RNA interference. It includes some excellent diagrams. It was originally produced to explain the 2006 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology given to Fire and Mellow "for their discovery of RNA interference—gene silencing by double-stranded RNA."

RNA interference
from NobelPrize.org

Nova ScienceNOW (the PBS television series) has a number of FREE resources you can use in your course:

HINT: I use the ScienceNOW video and other resources in my course as an "extra credit" activity that includes an online quiz that reviews the material presented in program and related resources.

This interactive Flash presentation from HMMI is a great teaching and learning resource that students can use for FREE:

Biointeractive: RNA interference

This video is more detailed than needed for the typical A&P course, but is a good visualization of the process.

 

 

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