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MatSE Soft Materials Seminar - “Tackling disease-associated biomolecules: From RNA therapeutics to single-molecule detection”

Event Type
Materials Science and Engineering Department
100 Materials Science and Engineering Building
Feb 15, 2022   4:00 pm  
Connie Wu, Brigham and Women's Hospital/Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University
Originating Calendar
MatSE Soft Materials Seminar Calendar

“Tackling disease-associated biomolecules: From RNA ther­apeutics to single-molecule detection”

The functionality versatility of polymeric and nucleic acid materials provides diverse engineering opportunities for the detection and therapeutic targeting of disease-associated biomolecules. My work has encompassed nanoscale and microscale technologies to address challenges in cancer therapeu­tics and diagnostics, from targeting the expression of dysregulated genes to probing rare protein biomarkers. I will first describe the design of a highly potent small interfering RNA nanoparticle delivery system that leverages approaches in nucleic acid engineering and polymer chemistry. To­wards overcoming analytical barriers in clinical diagnostics, I will then describe the development of ultrasensitive single-molecule detection technologies to measure low abundance proteins. By utilizing powerful molecular amplification methods and simple signal readouts, these digital enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) platforms enable the detection of low attomolar (10-18 M) protein con­centrations, with over four orders-of-magnitude improvements in sensitivity over conventional protein detection methods. Importantly, these methods democratize ultrasensitive protein detection, enabling high-throughput, high-multiplex digital measurements to be carried out with common laboratory instrumentation. Finally, I will highlight the application of digital ELISA technology towards the development of an ultrasensitive blood test for a retrotransposon-encoded protein as a highly specific multi-cancer biomarker. Overall, the development of these technologies can pave the way towards the future integration of materials and biomolecular engineering approaches with ultrasensitive bioana­lytical tools for accelerating biomarker signature discovery and precision medicine.

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