The goal of this project is to investigate new designing principles for engineering programmable RNA nanoassemblies that can be activated in response to various stimuli and have controllable immunological properties.
Kirill Afonin (Chemistry; www.afoninlab.com)
The emerging field of RNA nanotechnology comprises general knowledge of RNA structures, functions of various natural and artificial classes of RNAs, and their roles in different diseases to tackle specific biomedical and nanotechnological problems. It becomes evident that building functional RNA-based nanomaterials that can either (a) communicate with each other or with cellular machinery or (b) be readily responsive to various stimuli, can improve the operation of current therapeutic systems and allow the engineering of novel “smart” biomaterials. The overall goal of this project is to obtain a fundamental understanding of the relationship between nanostructure in RNA-based nanoassemblies, their immunological properties, and their responsiveness to external stimuli, which will enable the design and characterization of a new class of nanostructured materials with programmable stimuli-responsive reconfigurable properties and conditional activation of the immune responses.
REU Students’ Role
Students working in the Afonin lab will be involved in RNA nanoparticles preparation and extensive characterization using various in vitro techniques such as DLS, EMSA, FRET, ELISA etc. Students would learn about cutting-edge research on RNA nanotechnology, how RNA nanoasseblies can function inside cells, and how to engineer those nanoassemblies de novo. The summer program would be designed as an independent project (from start to finish) beginning with the computational design of RNA nanoassemblies to their use, for example, as programmable gene silencing inducers in human cancer cells. This course would be a huge asset to students entering the job force allowing them to put techniques on their CV’s that few other undergraduates or graduate students can claim.