Researchers develop a new reagent and method to create DNA and RNA polymer biohybrids

Credit: Chem (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.chempr.2023.07.013

Researchers in Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Chemistry have developed a reagent that opens new possibilities for creating DNA and RNA-based materials that could be used in ultra-stable and smart sensors for biomedical applications. The work was published on Aug. 22 in the journal Chem. “It’s a very emergent technology and pushing the field,” said Subha R. Das, associate professor of chemistry, who co-advises chemistry doctoral student Jaepil Jeong. Both Das and Jeong are members of Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Nucleic Acids Science and Technology, an interdisciplinary community of Carnegie Mellon and University of Pittsburgh scientists and engineers unified by interests in the chemistry, biology, and physics of DNA, RNA, and peptide nucleic acid. “Essentially, we now have access to a whole new class of biomaterials based on both nucleic acids and synthetic polymers.” Medical treatments using biopolymers are typically developed using proteins, Das said. But potential applications for DNA and RNA polymer biohybrids could include self-delivering genes and mRNA, ultra-stable and smart sensors, or therapeutics and gels for transplants and wound healing. Polymers developed using this method could potentially be used to create sequence-selective filters or membranes for biotechnology applications. The reagent, Serinolic ATRP initiator-modified phosphoramidite (SBiB), was developed by Jeong. The SBiB reagent enables researchers to incorporate multiple initiators anywhere in a DNA or RNA sequence during solid-phase synthesis. Previously it was only feasible to incorporate a single polymer chain initiator just at the end of a DNA strand.

By Heidi Opdyke, Carnegie Mellon University

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