Programmable Nucleic Acid Tools to Visualize and Regulate Biology


Biological systems consist of billions of molecules, such as DNA, RNA, and proteins, that orchestra together to achieve complex biological functions from single cell to tissue levels. Visualization and manipulation of those biomolecular activities are the cornerstones to understanding biological mechanisms and the advancement of human healthcare. Molecular tools-based bio-imaging allows massively visualization of biomolecules in cells and tissues, which is essential to reveal complex behaviors of cells. Other than visualization, the regulation of cellular activities also relies on engineered biomolecular tools to interface with cellular activities to record cellular information and control cell fates. Motivated by these scientific challenges to visualize and regulate biological systems, my future research will focus on the following directions with nucleic acid engineering: (1) Developing DNA based advanced fluorescence microscopy to achieve rapid, and highly multiplexed visualization of biomolecules (e.g., DNAs, RNAs, and proteins) in cells and tissues to understand cell and tissue functions; (2) Dynamically control the structure of mRNA to program cellular gene expression and its complex behaviors; (3) Control the biomolecular condensation with programmable RNA assembly for membraneless organelles engineering in cells, and its implementation to regulate cellular activities (e.g. gene expression and metabolism).