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Scientists develop method of producing large quantities of selectively labeled RNA molecules

For Immediate Release:
June 19, 2015

Study opens door to new opportunities in medicine and research

WHAT: Scientists have developed an efficient method of producing substantial quantities of RNA molecules with selectively labeled regions, paving the way for more advanced research and medical applications. RNA — DNA's lesser-known partner molecule — plays a significant role not only in genetic activities but in many other biological functions like enzymatic processes. It also is an important research, medical diagnostic, and therapeutic tool.

The selective labeling helps researchers track and influence changes in the structure and function of RNA and RNA-based molecules, potentially allowing for the creation of targeted treatments and molecular sensors to potentially detect cardiovascular and other diseases.

This research, published this week in the journal Nature, represents the first time that substantial amounts of selectively labeled RNAs have been produced. The method — termed PLOR for positron-selective labeling of RNA — involves advanced molecular biology techniques. Testing showed that the RNAs produced through the PLOR method behaved the same as those created via conventional means. Notably, the researchers developed a robotic platform to automate their RNA production process.

The investigative team included scientists from the intramural research programs of the National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Scientists were also from the University of Colorado, Leidos Biomedical Research Inc., Frederick National Laboratory for Cancer Research, and the University of Texas Health Science Center.

The research was funded in part by the above institutions as well as the National Institutes of Health (Office of the Director), National Science Foundation (CHE1266416, PHYS1125844), National Institutes of Health Molecular Biophysics Training Program (T32 GM-065103), W. M. Keck Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

WHO: Adrian R. Ferré-D'Amaré, Ph.D., NIH Senior Investigator in the Biochemistry and Biophysics Center of the NHLBI, is available to comment on the findings and implications of this research.

CONTACT: For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact the NHLBI Office of Science Policy, Engagement, Education, and Communications at 301-496-4236 or (link sends e-mail)