Controlling RNA in living cells

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

CAMBRIDGE, MA – MIT researchers have devised a new set of proteins that can be customized to bind arbitrary RNA sequences, making it possible to image RNA inside living cells, monitor what a particular RNA strand is doing, and even control RNA activity. You could use these proteins to do measurements of RNA generation, for example, or of the translation of RNA to proteins, says Edward Boyden, an associate professor of biological engineering and brain and cognitive sciences at the MIT Media Lab. Whereas now, given an RNA sequence, you can specify on paper a protein to target it. This system can also be used to stimulate translation of a target mRNA. This allowed them to dramatically increase translation of an mRNA molecule that normally wouldn’t be read frequently.

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