Dr. Long-Cheng Li, the discoverer of RNAa and a former Associate Professor in the Department of Urology at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), has been recently recruited to PUMCH as a Professor to lead the Laboratory of Molecular Medicine and the Central Laboratories of PUMCH. While working in UCSF in 2006, Dr. Li made a seminal discovery that small RNA is able to stimulate the expression of genes, a phenomenon he coined as RNA activation (RNAa). Prior to that, it was commonly believed that small RNA, short pieces of nucleic acid produced in the cells, can only negatively regulate the expression of protein-coding genes, a phenomena known as RNA interference and a Nobel Prize winning discovery made in 1998 by Andrew Fire and Craig Mello.
Since the initial report by Dr. Li, worldwide groups including that of Craig Mello have demonstrated RNAa in different cells and organisms, according to Li. In several papers published in late December 2013 in Cell and Development Cell,the Mello group reported RNAa in worm, a very simple animal. RNAa is a mechanism that resides in the cells to play an important role in many cellular processes and diseases, says Li, and could be exploited as a therapy for disease such as cancer and for manipulating cell fate.