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Unraveling the secrets of RNA-protein interactions

I am very honored to receive the Ignition Award of 2022, bestowed by the BU Technology Development Office, that helps to fast-track new efforts with high potential for comercialization. Ignition Awards provide BU faculty with one-year grants to help launch promising new ideas into the marketplace—better positioning investigators at all stages of project development to transform their research from concept to reality. Here is the excerpt from the Brink:

"Huge numbers of diseases, from neurological ailments to some forms of cancer, are caused by faulty regulation of RNA, the molecule that carries information to make new proteins in the body. If a second protein latches onto that RNA in the wrong place or at the wrong time, the information within the strand can’t be correctly read by the body, resulting in a deformed version of the protein that the RNA set out to create. In order to treat these sorts of ailments, researchers must find a specific stretch of the RNA where a drug might attach and correct the instructions it contains. Daniel Cifuentes, a MED assistant professor of biochemistry, is aiding this process by developing a new means to evaluate where and how strongly a protein attaches to RNA. Cifuentes’ new technology can decipher both the exact spot where a protein attaches to an RNA strand and how strong that attachment may be. “It used to take days to develop an assay to see if binding occurred on RNA, and even then, we didn’t know how robust that binding was,” says Cifuentes. “Our technology lets us test all of that at the same time in living cells, so researchers can more quickly develop drugs that target those spots.”

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