UC Davis Biomedical Engineering professor Yohei Yokobayashi has received a NIH R01 for a five-year project to develop artificial, genetically encoded nanomachines that self-assemble in living cells. Most nanotechnology intended for biomedical use is assembled in the lab and administered to patients or biological samples. However, this sort of nanotechnology is not suitable for long-term interventions, such as gene therapy. Genetically encoded nanomachines produced within the very living cells in which they operate are necessary, but this technology has not yet reached the level of sophistication found in nanomachines created in vitro.
Dr. Yokobayashi’s project seeks to bridge this gap by producing nanomachines comprised of RNA molecules that are transcribed in the cell from DNA templates. The goal is for nanomachines to be produced within and remain stable as they operate in a living cell, and to sense and integrate variety of intra- or extracellular signals. The nanomachines should respond intelligently to the changing environment of the cell by appropriately modulating the cell’s genetic and biochemical functions.