11.07.2018 change 11.07.2018

Molecular puzzles of RNA

Source: FNP, Credit: OneHD Source: FNP, Credit: OneHD

"RNA bricks" designed by Prof. Janusz Bujnicki`s team can be assembled into molecules and then used to create new drugs and nanotechnology materials. Computer modelling allows to analyse thousands of chemical compounds and choose those that can destroy bacteria and viruses by acting on RNA.

The team from the International Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology in Warsaw conducts research on the formation of the spatial structure of RNA (ribonucleic acid) molecules. Researchers want to understand how RNA interacts with other molecules.

"RNA molecules can be broken down and put together again, or something new can be assembled from components. All this is done in a computer - computer predictions allow to quickly and inexpensively analyse hundreds of thousands of molecules" - explains Prof. Janusz Bujnicki.

Based on the knowledge obtained in research on RNA molecules naturally occurring in cells, scientists design "RNA bricks" and use them to assemble new molecules, which can be used to create new drugs and next generation nanotechnology materials.

Various genetic diseases, cancers and viral infections can be treated by influencing RNA molecules in a cell. But how do we know which chemicals will affect RNA? Computers help again. Prof. Bujnicki`s latest research projects focus on the modelling and experimental studies of the interaction of RNA molecules with small chemical molecules and proteins. The team is developing original methods of computer modelling. They allow to search a huge database of chemical compounds and choose those that can have antibacterial or antiviral activity by acting on RNA.

Prof. Bujnicki`s team also conducts experimental research. The Proof of Concept ERC grant allowed the scientists to develop a new technology of unique molecular tools. The professor discovered that a certain group of proteins could be used as "scissors" for cutting RNA fragments from larger molecules. Such precise "cutouts" with a strictly defined sequence could be used as prefabricated components for building new materials for biotechnology and next generation drugs.

Professor Bujnicki started his adventure with scientific work by studying proteins and predicting their structures. His research on the structure of RNA was awarded with an ERC grant. As a result of the project, research methods were created that redefined the upper limit of modelling RNA molecules.

The Foundation for Polish Science reminds about the achievements of the researcher and ambassador of the foundation`s campaign. The aim of the campaign is to raise funds for a program supporting young scientists at the earliest stage of their careers.

Professor Bujnicki is currently the youngest member of the Polish Academy of Sciences. He is also one of the 7 eminent scholars forming the so-called Group of Chief Scientific Advisors of the European Commission.

PAP - Science in Poland, Karolina Duszczyk

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