Monthly Publication Highlights Novel Heat-Resistant RNA as Anionic Polymer Nanostructures

Jul 21, 2014

A research article describing the fabrication of a new stable ribonucleic acid (RNA) triangle structure that uses RNA’s intrinsic control over shape and size on the nanoscale is the UK College of Pharmacy Research Publication Highlight for June 2014.

The article was published in ACS Nano and is entitled, “RNA as a Boiling-Resistant Anionic Polymer Material to Build Robust Structures with Defined Shape and Stoichiometry.” Of note, due to the high potential impact of the findings, this report was selected as an American Chemical Society “Editor’s Choice” publication and is available free online at

This research is directed by Peixuan Guo, Professor and William Farish Endowed Chair in Nanobiotechnology in the UK College of Pharmacy and the Markey Cancer Center. The first author on the publication is postdoctoral scholar Emil Khisamutdinov. In addition, Daniel Jansinski, a UKCOP graduate student, is a co-author on this manuscript.

Chemical polymers have been used extensively in nanotechnology and nanomedicine as well as in other industries including, for example, in the clothing and cookware industries, due to their high stability and ability to hold their global shape and size. In contrast, RNAs have been viewed traditionally as fragile and rapidly degrading across a range of temperatures from 35-70 ⁰C, which limits the feasibility of their application in medicine as well as wider industrial applications. This report describes the design and construction of a new RNA triangle structure that utilizes RNA’s intrinsic control over shape and size on the nano scale, while exhibiting strong stability and resistant to degradation at even boiling temperatures. The novel anionic triangular RNA scaffold allows for the production of hexagons and patterned hexagonal honeycomb-like arrays and RNA sheets with controllable shape and stoichiometry. From a therapeutic perspective, the focus of this work is to deliver small non-coding RNAs such as siRNA, miRNA, ribozyme and/or reporter agents into targeted living cells. The findings reveal a new dimension of RNA as a special polymer providing feasibility and potential utility in nano-technological and industrial applications.

“The Guo laboratory continues to move the RNA nanotechnology field forward, capitalizing on RNA’s propensity to be a natural polymer and employing the newly designed RNA triangle as a novel type of polymer with advantages over conventional chemical polymers. These stable, honeycomb-like, polymeric, RNA sheets have properties potentially allowing for exciting applications in the pharmaceutical fields from drug and gene delivery for multiple diseases to engineered biocompatible tissue materials to novel plastics,” said Linda Dwoskin, Associate Dean for Research.

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