Thursday 16 September 2021

New method for tracking RNA with fluorescence


Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have succeeded in developing a method to label mRNA molecules, and thereby follow, in real time, their path through cells, using a microscope -- without affecting their properties or subsequent activity. The breakthrough could be of great importance in facilitating the development of new RNA-based medicines.


RNA-based therapeutics offer a range of new opportunities to prevent, treat and potentially cure diseases. But currently, the delivery of RNA therapeutics into the cell is inefficient. For new therapeutics to fulfil their potential, the delivery methods need to be optimised. Now, a new method can provide an important piece of the puzzle of overcoming these challenges and take the development a major step forward.



The method involves replacing one of the building blocks of RNA with a fluorescent variant, which, apart from that feature, maintains the natural properties of the original base. The fluorescent units have been developed with the help of a special chemistry, and the researchers have shown that it can then be used to produce messenger RNA (mRNA), without affecting the mRNA's ability to be translated into a protein at natural speed. This represents a breakthrough which has never before been done successfully. The fluorescence furthermore allows the researchers to follow functional mRNA molecules in real time, seeing how they are taken up into cells with the help of a microscope.




Tom Baladi, Jesper R. Nilsson, Audrey Gallud, Emanuele Celauro, Cécile Gasse, Fabienne Levi-Acobas, Ivo Sarac, Marcel R. Hollenstein, Anders Dahlén, Elin K. Esbjörner, L. Marcus Wilhelmsson. Stealth Fluorescence Labeling for Live Microscopy Imaging of mRNA Delivery. Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2021; 143 (14): 5413 DOI: 10.1021/jacs.1c00014


Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

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