UChicago breakthrough opens field of study, potential avenues for medicine - Featuring Chuan He

Jan 22, 2020
By Louise Lerner

University of Chicago scientist Chuan He found evidence that RNA itself modulates how DNA is transcribed—using a chemical process that is increasingly apparent to be vital to biology.

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A group of University of Chicago scientists has uncovered a previously unknown way that our genes are made into reality.

Rather than directions going one-way from DNA to RNA to proteins, the latest study shows that RNA itself modulates how DNA is transcribed—using a chemical process that is increasingly apparent to be vital to biology. The discovery has significant implications for our understanding of human disease and drug design. 

“It appears to be a fundamental pathway we didn’t know about. Anytime that happens, it holds promise to open up completely new directions of research and inquiry,” said Prof. Chuan He, a world-renowned chemist. 

The human body is among the most complex pieces of machinery to exist. Every time you so much as scratch your nose, you’re using more intricate engineering than any rocket ship or supercomputer ever designed. It’s taken us centuries to deconstruct how this works, and each time someone discovers a new mechanism, a few more mysteries of human health make sense—and new treatments become available.

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