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Researchers develop new way to see single RNA molecules inside living cells
Date:4/6/2009

Biomedical engineers have developed a new type of probe that allows them to visualize single ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules within live cells more easily than existing methods. The tool will help scientists learn more about how RNA operates within living cells.

Techniques scientists currently use to image these transporters of genetic information within cells have several drawbacks, including the need for synthetic RNA or a large number of fluorescent molecules. The fluorescent probes developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology circumvent these issues.

"The probes we designed shine bright, are small and easy to assemble, bind rapidly to their targets, and can be imaged for hours. These characteristics make them a great choice for studying the movement and location of RNA inside a single cell and the interaction between RNA and binding proteins," said Philip Santangelo, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Details of the probe production process and RNA imaging strategy were published online in the journal Nature Methods on April 6. In addition to Santangelo, Georgia Tech graduate student Aaron Lifland, Emory University associate professor Gary Bassell and Vanderbilt University professor James Crowe Jr. also contributed to this research. This research was funded by new faculty support from Georgia Tech.

In the study, the probes produced by attaching a few small fluorescent molecules called fluorophores to a modified nucleic acid sequence and combining the sequences with a protein exhibited single-molecule sensitivity and allowed the researchers to target and follow native RNA and non-engineered viral RNA in living cells.

"The great thing about these probes is that they recognize RNA sequences and bind to them using the same base pairing most people are familiar with in regards to DNA," explained Santangelo. "By addin
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Contact: Abby Vogel
avogel@gatech.edu
404-385-3364
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
Source:Eurekalert  

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