Encapsulation based in vitro selection of RNA catalysts

Naturally occurring cellular components such as enzymes are often the only tools available to perform biological research, a limitation that slows the pace of research and hinders the search for cures to human disease. The situation is similar to having your car break down in the middle of the street and having to make repairs using parts scavenged from neighbouring automobiles. A proper toolbox would greatly decrease the time required to perform the repair. My research examines the potential functions of ribonucleic acid (RNA), a cellular component which is vital for the development and functioning of all living things. I am examining the ability of RNA to replicate itself, without the help of protein, because RNA may be capable of important metabolic functions that are currently performed by protein enzymes. I am developing in vitro (in the test tube) techniques to isolate new RNA catalytic molecules. Because these artificially manufactured catalysts perform specific functions, they can be used as tools for conducting medical research. Ultimately, I will examine whether artificial RNA sequences can interact with existing cellular components. Such experiments give us a better understanding of natural processes within cells, perhaps leading to potent new genetic therapies for the treatment of disease.