We are studying the transcripts that are produced when a gene is switched on, finding out how they interact with other components inside cells and how changes in these interactions can contribute to disease.
Genes are the instructions for our cells, encoded within DNA. When a gene is switched on, or ‘transcribed’, it makes a transcript known as RNA. The most common type of RNAs is called messenger RNA(mRNA), which carries the instructions for building proteins, while other RNAs play important roles in their own right.
RNAs do not float freely inside a cell. Instead, they are coated by proteins to form ribonucleoprotein complexes (RNPs). These proteins guide the RNA through the many steps of its journey through the cell. We have developed new techniques to investigate how different RNAs and proteins come together in RNPs and find out how this contributes to their functions.
We want to understand the role of RNPs in the development of nerve cells and discover how these roles have evolved over time. We’re also investigating how faulty RNPs lead to conditions affecting the nervous system, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, also known as motor neurone disease). We hope that our discoveries will lead to new therapies for this devastating illness.