Matching Items (13)

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Translational Regulation using Artificial Introns and ncRNAs

Description

Synthetic biology is an emerging engineering disciple, which designs and controls biological systems for creation of materials, biosensors, biocomputing, and much more. To better control and engineer these systems, modular

Synthetic biology is an emerging engineering disciple, which designs and controls biological systems for creation of materials, biosensors, biocomputing, and much more. To better control and engineer these systems, modular genetic components which allow for highly specific and high dynamic range genetic regulation are necessary. Currently the field struggles to demonstrate reliable regulators which are programmable and specific, yet also allow for a high dynamic range of control. Inspired by the characteristics of the RNA toehold switch in E. coli, this project attempts utilize artificial introns and complementary trans-acting RNAs for gene regulation in a eukaryote host, S. cerevisiae. Following modification to an artificial intron, splicing control with RNA hairpins was demonstrated. Temperature shifts led to increased protein production likely due to increased splicing due to hairpin loosening. Progress is underway to demonstrate trans-acting RNA interaction to control splicing. With continued development, we hope to provide a programmable, specific, and effective means for translational gene regulation in S. cerevisae.

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Date Created
  • 2018-05

Point-of-Care Testing for Detection of Measles and Mumps Immunity

Description

Measles and mumps are highly contagious, vaccine-preventable diseases with cases continuing to persist in high two-dose vaccinated populations. Recent outbreaks on university and college campuses across the United States prompt

Measles and mumps are highly contagious, vaccine-preventable diseases with cases continuing to persist in high two-dose vaccinated populations. Recent outbreaks on university and college campuses across the United States prompt a need for further understanding of the immunity levels afforded by the MMR vaccine which has significantly decreased incidence rates of measles and mumps since it was introduced.
Current methods for IgG antibody detection include enzyme immunoassays (EIA) such as the commercially available Diamedix Immunosimplicity® Measles IgG test kit and the Diamedix Immunosimplicity® Mumps IgG test kit. EIAs generally provide high sensitivity and strong specificity, however, there is a need for rapid screening of measles and mumps specific immunity in outbreak and resource-limited areas which could be solved by use a point-of-care (POC) platform.
This study aims to optimize a point-of-care device for the multiplexed detection of MeV, MuV, and RuV IgG antibodies in sera and to compare the sensitivity to commercial enzyme immunoassays. The IgG antibody levels to MeV and MuV were measured using EIA test kits for a total of 44 healthy serum samples. Of the samples, 6% were seronegative for MeV-specific IgG antibodies and 75% were seronegative for MuV-specific antibodies, showing low correlation of IgG antibody levels between both viruses.
To improve the sensitivity of the POC device, multiple conjugated fluorescent secondary antibodies were tested with different surface chemistries. Signal detection was measured using the pre-developed four-site slide reader. Preliminary data show that Nile Red microspheres provide robust signal detection and should be the secondary antibody of choice when sera are tested for IgG antibodies using the POC platform in future work.

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Date Created
  • 2017-05

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Composite Bricks from Fungus Mycelium and Nanomaterials for Sustainable Applications

Description

Plastics make up a large proportion of solid waste that ends up in landfills and pollute ecosystems, and do not readily decompose. Composites from fungus mycelium are a recent and

Plastics make up a large proportion of solid waste that ends up in landfills and pollute ecosystems, and do not readily decompose. Composites from fungus mycelium are a recent and promising alternative to replace plastics. Mycelium is the root-like fibers from fungi that grow underground. When fed with woody biomass, the mycelium becomes a dense mass. From there, the mycelium is placed in mold to take its shape and grow. Once the growth process is done, the mycelium is baked to end the growth, thus making a mycelium brick. The woody biomass fed into the mycelium can include materials such as sawdust and pistachio shells, which are all cheap feedstock. In comparison to plastics, mycelium bricks are mostly biodegradable and eco-friendly. Mycelium bricks are resistant to water, fire, and mold and are also lightweight, sustainable, and affordable. Mycelium based materials are a viable option to replace less eco-friendly materials. This project aims to explore growth factors of mycelium and incorporate nanomaterials into mycelium bricks to achieve strong and sustainable materials, specifically for packaging materials. The purpose of integrating nanomaterials into mycelium bricks is to add further functionality such as conductivity, and to enhance properties such as mechanical strength.

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Date Created
  • 2019-05

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Early Detection of MicroRNA Biomolecular Markers using CRISPR-Cas12a

Description

Extensive efforts have been made to develop efficient and low-cost methods for diagnostics to identify molecular biomarkers that are linked to a wide array of conditions, including cancer. A highly

Extensive efforts have been made to develop efficient and low-cost methods for diagnostics to identify molecular biomarkers that are linked to a wide array of conditions, including cancer. A highly developed method includes utilizing the gene-editing enzyme CRISPR-Cas12a (Cpf1), which demonstrates double-stranded DNase activity with RuvC catalytic domain with high sensitivity and specificity. This DNase activity is RNA-guided and requires a T-rich PAM site on the target sequence for functional cleavage. There have been recent efforts to utilize this DNase activity of Cas12a by combining it with isothermal amplification and analysis by lateral strip tests. This project examined CRISPR-based early detection of microRNA biomarkers. MicroRNA are short RNA molecules that have large roles in post-transcriptional gene regulation. However, due the short length of microRNA and its single-stranded nature, it is challenging to use Cas12a for microRNA detection using existing methods. Thus, this project investigated the potential of two microRNA detection strategies for recognition by CRISPR-Cas12a. These methods were microRNA-splinted ligation with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and MicroRNA-specific reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR). Gel imaging demonstrated effective amplification of ligated DNA through microRNA-splinted ligation with PCR/RPA. In addition, lateral strips tests showed effective cleavage of the target sequences by Cas12a. However, RT-PCR method demonstrated low amplification by PCR and inefficient poly(A) elongation. This project paves the way for the detection of an extensive range of microRNA biomarkers that are linked to an array of diseases. Future directions include analysis and modifications of RT-PCR method to improve experimental results, extending these detection methods to a larger range of microRNA sequences, and eventually utilizing them for detection in human samples.

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Date Created
  • 2019-05

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Development of Nanozymes from 2D Materials for Optical Detection of Neurotransmitters

Description

This paper discusses the possibility of utilizing 2D molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) as a nanozyme to detect dopamine colorimetric assays, first by detecting color change in liquid solutions due to oxidation

This paper discusses the possibility of utilizing 2D molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) as a nanozyme to detect dopamine colorimetric assays, first by detecting color change in liquid solutions due to oxidation and then second on paper-based assays. MoS2 samples dispersed in methylcellulose (MC) solution were prepared using liquid-phase exfoliation through sonication. The dopamine (DOPA) and hydrogen peroxide (H¬¬2O2) solutions were prepared separately in specific concentrations. The solutions were mixed in a well plate and colorimetric results were analyzed by a plate reader, revealing a quantitative relationship between dopamine concentration and absorbance. Subsequent testing was conducted using paper assays, where combined solutions of DOPA and H2O2 were dropped onto paper with printed wax wells that contained dried MoS2. An analysis of the color change was conducted using a smartphone application called Color Grab to detect the red, green, and blue (RGB) values. Plotting the RGB results across the dopamine concentrations revealed a positively correlated relationship between the two factors, suggesting that a predictive model could be developed to predict dopamine concentrations based on measured colorimetric values.

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Date Created
  • 2019-05

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Engineering of Synthetic DNA/RNA Modules for Manipulating Gene Expression and Circuit Dynamics

Description

Gene circuit engineering facilitates the discovery and understanding of fundamental biology and has been widely used in various biological applications. In synthetic biology, gene circuits are often constructed by two

Gene circuit engineering facilitates the discovery and understanding of fundamental biology and has been widely used in various biological applications. In synthetic biology, gene circuits are often constructed by two main strategies: either monocistronic or polycistronic constructions. The Latter architecture can be commonly found in prokaryotes, eukaryotes, and viruses and has been largely applied in gene circuit engineering. In this work, the effect of adjacent genes and noncoding regions are systematically investigated through the construction of batteries of gene circuits in diverse scenarios. Data-driven analysis yields a protein expression metric that strongly correlates with the features of adjacent transcriptional regions (ATRs). This novel mathematical tool helps the guide for circuit construction and has the implication for the design of synthetic ATRs to tune gene expression, illustrating its potential to facilitate engineering complex gene networks. The ability to tune RNA dynamics is greatly needed for biotech applications, including therapeutics and diagnostics. Diverse methods have been developed to tune gene expression through transcriptional or translational manipulation. Control of RNA stability/degradation is often overlooked and can be the lightweight alternative to regulate protein yields. To further extend the utility of engineered ATRs to regulate gene expression, a library of RNA modules named degradation-tuning RNAs (dtRNAs) are designed with the ability to form specific 5’ secondary structures prior to RBS. These modules can modulate transcript stability while having a minimal interference on translation initiation. Optimization of their functional structural features enables gene expression level to be tuned over a wide dynamic range. These engineered dtRNAs are capable of regulating gene circuit dynamics as well as noncoding RNA levels and can be further expanded into cell-free system for gene expression control in vitro. Finally, integrating dtRNA with synthetic toehold sensor enables improved paper-based viral diagnostics, illustrating the potential of using synthetic dtRNAs for biomedical applications.

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Date Created
  • 2020

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Mechanically active heterogeneous polymer matrix composites

Description

An evolving understanding of elastomeric polymer nanocomposites continues to expand commercial, defense, and industrial products and applications. This work explores the thermomechanical properties of elastomeric nanocomposites prepared from bisphenol A

An evolving understanding of elastomeric polymer nanocomposites continues to expand commercial, defense, and industrial products and applications. This work explores the thermomechanical properties of elastomeric nanocomposites prepared from bisphenol A diglycidyl ether (BADGE) and three amine-terminated poly(propylene oxides) (Jeffamines). The Jeffamines investigated include difunctional crosslinkers with molecular weights of 2,000 and 4,000 g/mol and a trifunctional crosslinker with a molecular weight of 3,000 g/mol. Additionally, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) were added, up to 1.25 wt%, to each thermoset. The findings indicate that the Tg and storage modulus of the polymer nanocomposites can be controlled independently within narrow concentration windows, and that effects observed following CNT incorporation are dependent on the crosslinker molecular weight.

Polymer matrix composites (PMCs) offer design solutions to produce smart sensing, conductive, or high performance composites for a number of critical applications. Nanoparticle additives, in particular, carbon nanotubes and metallic quantum dots, have been investigated for their ability to improve the conductivity, thermal stability, and mechanical strength of traditional composites. Herein we report the use of quantum dots (QDs) and fluorescently labeled carbon nanotubes (CNTs) to modify the thermomechanical properties of PMCs. Additionally, we find that pronounced changes in fluorescence emerge following plastic deformation, indicating that in these polymeric materials the transduction of mechanical force into the fluorescence occurs in response to mechanical activation.

Segmented ionenes are a class of thermoplastic elastomers that contain a permanent charged group within the polymer backbone and a spacer segment with a low glass transition temperature (Tg) to provide flexibility. Ionenes are of interest because of their synthetic versatility, unique morphologies, and ionic nature. Using phase changing ionene-based nanocomposites could be extended to create reversible mechanically, electrically, optically, and/or thermally responsive materials depending on constituent nanoparticles and polymers. This talk will discuss recent efforts to utilize the synthetic versatility of ionenes (e.g., spacer composition of PTMO or PEG) to prepare percolated ionic domains in microphase separated polymers that display a range of thermomechanical properties. Furthermore, by synthesizing two series of ionene copolymers with either PEG or PTMO spacers at various ratios with 1,12-dibromododecane will yield a range of ion contents (hard contents) and will impact nanoparticle dispersion.

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Date Created
  • 2019

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RNA-Based Computing Devices for Intracellular and Diagnostic Applications

Description

The fundamental building blocks for constructing complex synthetic gene networks are effective biological parts with wide dynamic range, low crosstalk, and modularity. RNA-based components are promising sources of such parts

The fundamental building blocks for constructing complex synthetic gene networks are effective biological parts with wide dynamic range, low crosstalk, and modularity. RNA-based components are promising sources of such parts since they can provide regulation at the level of transcription and translation and their predictable base pairing properties enable large libraries to be generated through in silico design. This dissertation studies two different approaches for initiating interactions between RNA molecules to implement RNA-based components that achieve translational regulation. First, single-stranded domains known as toeholds were employed for detection of the highly prevalent foodborne pathogen norovirus. Toehold switch riboregulators activated by trigger RNAs from the norovirus RNA genome are designed, validated, and coupled with paper-based cell-free transcription-translation systems. Integration of paper-based reactions with synbody enrichment and isothermal RNA amplification enables as few as 160 copies/mL of norovirus from clinical samples to be detected in reactions that do not require sophisticated equipment and can be read directly by eye. Second, a new type of riboregulator that initiates RNA-RNA interactions through the loop portions of RNA stem-loop structures was developed. These loop-initiated RNA activators (LIRAs) provide multiple advantages compared to toehold-based riboregulators, exhibiting ultralow signal leakage in vivo, lacking any trigger RNA sequence constraints, and appending no additional residues to the output protein. Harnessing LIRAs as modular parts, logic gates that exploit loop-mediated control of mRNA folding state to implement AND and OR operations with up to three sequence-independent input RNAs were constructed. LIRA circuits can also be ported to paper-based cell-free reactions to implement portable systems with molecular computing and sensing capabilities. LIRAs can detect RNAs from a variety of different pathogens, such as HIV, Zika, dengue, yellow fever, and norovirus, and after coupling to isothermal amplification reactions, provide visible test results down to concentrations of 20 aM (12 RNA copies/µL). And the logic functionality of LIRA circuits can be used to specifically identify different HIV strains and influenza A subtypes. These findings demonstrate that toehold- and loop-mediated RNA-RNA interactions are both powerful strategies for implementing RNA-based computing systems for intracellular and diagnostic applications.

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Date Created
  • 2019

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Chemical and geometric transformations of MoS2/WS2 heterostructures by plasma treatment

Description

Two-dimensional (2D) transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs) like molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) and tungsten disulfide (WS2) are effective components in optoelectronic devices due to their tunable and attractive electric, optical and chemical

Two-dimensional (2D) transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs) like molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) and tungsten disulfide (WS2) are effective components in optoelectronic devices due to their tunable and attractive electric, optical and chemical properties. Combining different 2D TMDCs into either vertical or lateral heterostructures has been pursued to achieve new optical and electronic properties. Chemical treatments have also been pursued to effectively tune the properties of 2D TMDCs. Among many chemical routes that have been studied, plasma treatment is notable for being rapid and versatile. In Wang’s group earlier work, plasma treatment of MoS2 and WS2 resulted in the formation of MoO3 and WO3 nanosheets and nanoscrolls. However, plasma treatment of 2D TMDC heterostructures have not been widely studied. In this dissertation, MoS2/WS2 vertical and lateral heterostructures were grown and treated with air plasma. The result showed that the vertical heterostructure and lateral heterostructures behaved differently. For the vertical heterostructures, the top WS2 layer acts as a shield for the underlying MoS2 monolayer from oxidizing and forming transition metal oxide nanoscrolls, as shown by Raman spectroscopy and atomic force microscopy (AFM). On the contrary, for the lateral heterostructures, the WS2 that was grown surrounding the MoS2 triangular core served as a tight frame to stop the propagation of the oxidized MoS2, resulting a gradient of crack distribution. These findings provide insight into how plasma treatment can affect the formation of oxide in heterostructure, which can have further application in nanoelectronic devices and electrocatalysts.

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Date Created
  • 2019

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Sensing and regulation from nucleic acid devices

Description

The highly predictable structural and thermodynamic behavior of deoxynucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) have made them versatile tools for creating artificial nanostructures over broad range. Moreover, DNA and

The highly predictable structural and thermodynamic behavior of deoxynucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) have made them versatile tools for creating artificial nanostructures over broad range. Moreover, DNA and RNA are able to interact with biological ligand as either synthetic aptamers or natural components, conferring direct biological functions to the nucleic acid devices. The applications of nucleic acids greatly relies on the bio-reactivity and specificity when applied to highly complexed biological systems.

This dissertation aims to 1) develop new strategy to identify high affinity nucleic acid aptamers against biological ligand; and 2) explore highly orthogonal RNA riboregulators in vivo for constructing multi-input gene circuits with NOT logic. With the aid of a DNA nanoscaffold, pairs of hetero-bivalent aptamers for human alpha thrombin were identified with ultra-high binding affinity in femtomolar range with displaying potent biological modulations for the enzyme activity. The newly identified bivalent aptamers enriched the aptamer tool box for future therapeutic applications in hemostasis, and also the strategy can be potentially developed for other target molecules. Secondly, by employing a three-way junction structure in the riboregulator structure through de-novo design, we identified a family of high-performance RNA-sensing translational repressors that down-regulates gene translation in response to cognate RNAs with remarkable dynamic range and orthogonality. Harnessing the 3WJ repressors as modular parts, we integrate them into biological circuits that execute universal NAND and NOR logic with up to four independent RNA inputs in Escherichia coli.

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Date Created
  • 2019