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The genome is the master plan for all body parts, from toe nails to eyebrows. But it's not just the blueprint that determines what's built. All of the cellular players that draw instructions from the blueprint add their own interpretation to the design, and researchers are still discovering new players. Using new tools they developed, Thomas Jefferson University researchers have found a sea of a new subtype of RNA molecules in the cell, and evidence suggesting they may play a role in aging processes.
"A lot of research has focused on the most famous short RNA—the microRNA," says senior author Yohei Kirino, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Jefferson's Computational Medicine Center. "MicroRNA is powerful in that it can silence messenger RNA, essentially diverting the production of certain cellular elements encoded by the genome, and we can study them with established methods. We wanted to know what these other, more difficult to capture short RNA were doing in the cell. Our study begins to answer that question."
Research - PLOS - Genetics - January
The research was published in PLOS Genetics on January 13th.
The subtype of RNA Dr. Kirino studied is called cyclic-phosphate containing RNA, or cP-RNA, for short. Although researchers knew this unusual form of phosphate existed on RNA molecules, they assumed it was just an intermediate form generated during RNA digestion. Current methods to track RNA, by amplifying and sequencing the molecule, fail to capture RNA with a cyclic phosphate tail. "The shape is problematic," says Dr. Kirino.
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