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Title: Harnessing Nucleic Acid Molecular Recognition and Self-Assembly for Biosensing and Biomolecular Imaging
Nucleic acids are exquisitely adept at molecular recognition and self-assembly, enabling them to direct nearly all of the processes that make life possible. These capabilities have been fine-tuned by billions of years of evolution, and more recently, have been harnessed in the laboratory to enable the use of DNA and RNA for applications that are completely unrelated to their canonical biological roles. In our lab, we seek to use DNA and RNA for applications in biosensing and biomolecular imaging. Specifically, we utilize DNA aptamers as recognition elements for the development of new small-molecule detection assays. In these assays, the target analyte directs assembly of DNA strands, providing an output that can be observed visually or spectroscopically. We have also developed RNA sequences that are capable of recognizing specific small molecule fluorophores and promoting covalent self-labeling with these fluorophores. We anticipate use of these self-labeling ribozymes for imaging of RNA in living cells.