471h Bond Life Sciences Center
Burke explores the many roles of ribonucleic acid, or RNA. This substance has long been known to function in cells to help copy genetic information from DNA. But scientists are increasingly recognizing many other tasks that RNA carries out. Burke uses cell biology, biochemistry, and sophisticated computational approaches to compare millions of RNA molecules, looking for the ones that can do helpful jobs. He foresees that RNA might be harnessed for artificial metabolisms or to direct the development of stem cells. Burke has developed RNA molecules called aptamers that bind tightly to proteins from HIV and prevent this virus from replicating. His lab also uses molecular evolution techniques to develop artificial ribozymes, which are RNA molecules that catalyze chemical reactions. These have implications for the study of evolution because the earliest life on Earth is widely thought to have evolved through RNA.
Lab site: Burke Lab