Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology has become popular in the last few years due to its use in COVID-19 vaccines. This technology has been so groundbreaking that it recently won the 2023 Nobel Prize in medicine “for discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19.” This isn’t new technology, however— modified mRNAs have been studied for decades and show significant potential for therapeutic applications. Compared to unmodified mRNAs, modified mRNAs are more stable and have more favorable immunogenic effects.
The human genome consists of roughly 20,000 genes. Most of those genes contain instructions for making proteins, which work to build, repair, and regulate everything in our bodies. The genes are separated into distinct domains, and between those domains are boundary regions of DNA, which help to separate genes and ensure there isn’t crosstalk resulting in expression (genes turned on) or silencing (genes turned off) between the genes. Unfortunately, disruptions within boundary regions can still occur, leading to gene misexpression and disease in humans.
Using energy from light to activate natural enzymes can help scientists create new-to-nature enzymatic reactions that support eco-friendly biomanufacturing — the production of fuels, plastics, and valuable chemicals from plants or other biological systems.
A new artificial intelligence tool can predict the functions of enzymes based on their amino acid sequences, even when the enzymes are unstudied or poorly understood. The researchers said the AI tool, dubbed CLEAN, outperforms the leading state-of-the-art tools in accuracy, reliability and sensitivity. Better understanding of enzymes and their functions would be a boon for research in genomics, chemistry, industrial materials, medicine, pharmaceuticals and more.
Living organisms produce a myriad of natural products which can be used in modern medicine and therapeutics. Bacteria and other microbes have become the main source for natural products, including a growing family called ribosomally synthesized and post-translationally modified peptides, or RiPPs. The labs of Douglas Mitchell (MMG), John and Margaret Witt Professor of Chemistry, and Huimin Zhao (CABBI/BSD/GSE/MMG), Steven L.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has committed another round of funding to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign to lead the second phase of its Bioenergy Research Center — one of four large-scale DOE-funded research centers focused on innovation in biofuels, bioproducts, and a clean energy future for the country.
Many of the drugs we utilize in modern medicine are naturally produced by microbes. Penicillin, an antibiotic derived from certain molds, is one of the most notable natural products due to its recognition as one of the biggest advances in medicine and human health. As DNA sequencing has become cheaper and faster, scientists now have access to hundreds of thousands of microbial genomes and the natural products they produce.
Building molecules, studying symbioses between species, and exploring how life evolved
One of the biggest challenges in traditional laboratory settings is performing countless hours of error-prone lab work: handling reagents, incubating reactions or living cells, synthesizing products, applying treatments, and monitoring outcomes. The Illinois Biological Foundry for Advanced Biomanufacturing was established in 2014 to bypass these cumbersome procedures and support a broad array of research goals.