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For years, all the research and drug development around the buzzy gene-silencing technique known as RNA interference has centered on the liver. It is by far the easiest target.

But now, just a few months after the Food and Drug Administration approved the first-ever RNAi-based drug, there are early signs that the field is expanding. And while many public and private companies have eyed the brain as their next target, academic research is actually further along in an unexpected organ: the placenta.

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