RNA—the chemical cousin of the DNA in our genes—was long thought of as merely a messenger, but scientists now recognize that RNA plays a powerful role in controlling gene activity. Originally discovered in the petunia plant, RNA interference quickly became a powerful laboratory tool for shutting down individual genes to discover their function. Similarly, CRISPR/Cas9 is another powerful RNA-based technology that allows scientists to manipulate gene expression by directly altering DNA. Researchers are also exploring how to use RNAi and CRISPR as therapeutic tools to inactivate specific genes that are at the heart of many diseases.
The Center for Functional Genomics at the LJI is one of only a handful of comprehensive functional genomics labs around the nation funded by the National Institutes of Health, and houses one of the world’s largest collections of RNAi and CRISPR. This resource, combined with state-of-the-art instruments and the expertise of LJI staff, allows biomedical researchers to survey the human genome with unprecedented speed and precision.
The sequencing of the human genome in the 1990s marked a revolution in the field of human biology. Today we’re in the midst of another revolution. Human genomics is transforming the way researchers study how individual genes function within a finely tuned network of waxing and waning gene activity. Armed with that knowledge we will be able to individualize prevention, diagnosis and treatment and thus improve human health.
The Center at LJI is not only focused on finding new treatments for immune-related diseases, but it provides a prestigious addition to San Diego’s research community that is open to researchers on the Torrey Pines mesa and elsewhere.