Conference highlight: RNA safer than DNA for genetic engineering

The annual meeting is not a thing of the past, in spite of threats of terrorism and still-sluggish economic conditions. This one for the American Neurological Association (ANA) has some exciting presentations planned. They will feature topics like regenerating nerve fibers and cells in in the spinal cord and brain (traditionally not as self-healing as other tissue), and discussing how interfering with RNA is easier and safer than targeting DNA for genetic engineering. For those of us who are non-scientists, I wondered why using DNA is considered dangerous. So I scouted around and found this paper online (by a University of California, Berkeley professor) that gives one good reason. DNA can contain–and transfer over–“genetic material from bacteria, viruses and other genetic parasites that cause diseases as well as antibiotic resistance [sic] genes that make infectious diseases untreatable.” Now I hope that we among the interested public won’t have to wait until a report from the conference on why RNA is safer.