Carnegie Mellon University
Molecular & Experimental Tools

Molecular & Experimental Tools

CNAST members are using sophisticated experimental tools in a broad spectrum of projects.

Catalina Achim, Bruce Armitage, Danith Ly and Subha R. Das design and make new compounds that can regulate and/or report on biological processes involving genomic deoxyribonucleic acids (DNA) or ribonucleic acids (RNA). Much of the ongoing research in CNAST revolves around the development and applications of gamma peptide nucleic acids (γPNA), a backbone-modified analogue of peptide nucleic acids (PNA). In publications dating back to 2006, CNAST member Danith Ly has demonstrated numerous significant advantages of γPNA over traditional PNA, including higher affinity for complementary single-stranded DNA and RNA, the unprecedented ability to recognize virtually any sequence of double-stranded DNA via strand invasion into the double helix, and exceptional water solubility, which minimizes nonspecific aggregation and surface adsorption. CNAST members are using γPNA for a range of applications in gene regulation and diagnostics.

Linda Peteanu (Chemistry) and Alex Evilevitch (Physics) bring advanced techniques to the study of biological systems, including single molecule fluorescence spectroscopy, atomic force microscopy and microcalorimetry.

In addition, there are scientists who use nucleic acid tools to provide insight into gene function. For example, Charles Ettensohn and Veronica Hinman (Biological Sciences) use RNA-binding compounds to inhibit gene expression in order to understand how specific genes regulate development.