lncRNA – An unknown world

We all know the basics about RNA and DNA. However, did you know that out of all the RNA that gets transcribed, only 1.5% gets translated into proteins? These types of RNA are referred to as non-coding RNA, or ncRNA. The lab I’m working at this summer, Hargrove Lab, is researching long non-coding RNA, or lncRNA, which is defined as ncRNA that is over 200 nucleotides in length.

LncRNA is a new, unknown, exciting world in the scientific research community. There is not much known about their functions, mechanisms, etc. I find this to be fascinating, as the research I will be doing this summer will help find out more about this hidden, unknown world.

My research project entails screening a large small molecule library (with thousands of small molecules in it) with certain target lncRNA tertiary and quaternary structures. The targets we are investigating are lncRNA structures that are known to have a disease-causing effect in the body. The goal of our research is to find small molecules that effectively bind to the targets in order to be able to manipulate/work with these lncRNA structures.

This can get really tricky though. In addition to the fact that we are looking into so many small molecules, we want to find out not only if they bind, but a plethora of other details as well. Can we find a small molecule that only binds to one specific target and no others (Is it selective)? Does the small molecule bind the same way at different pH levels? Does the small molecule bind better in one concentration than another?

It is a large task at hand, but a fascinating one too!

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