Since the dawn of science, scientists have been seeking to uncover biological processes and harness them for the good of man. In recent years, the development of computational biology and biotechnology has helped reveal the mechanisms underlying the functions of RNA molecules. From the development of vaccines, through the correction of genetic defects, to targeted cancer treatments, RNA-based therapy marks a new era of personalized medicine. The RNA molecule was nicknamed "the molecule of the future” for a good reason.

RNA – far beyond a mediator

Until the end of the previous century, scientists had identified RNA as a mediator between the DNA code and the production of proteins, which are the body’s building blocks; however, recent studies have revealed dozens of different types of functional RNA molecules. Among other things, groundbreaking research has shown that microscopic RNA sequences that do not take part in the protein production process play an active role in actual gene expression regulation – after the transcription from the DNA; these RNA molecules actually can stop the protein production process outlined in the DNA code.

What are we researching?

Bar-Ilan University is an academic hub for some of the leading RNA researchers from Israel and abroad who explore the many and diverse aspects of these molecules. The studies performed in our laboratories by our researchers have led to significant breakthroughs in recent years in a variety of RNA-related fields.

  • RNA in parasites

An in-depth understanding of parasite RNA mechanisms opens the door to finding treatments for infectious diseases that harm millions of people every year. Furthermore, unveiling parasite RNA mechanisms allows for the possibility of understanding these processes in other living organisms, including humans.

  • RNA editing

Our laboratories are leading innovative, groundbreaking research and experiments in the field of RNA editing. Using advanced technologies and unique algorithms, our studies of computational biology focus on the editing and modification mechanisms in RNA molecules in various diseases and medical conditions, and have revealed, among other things, the editing mechanism of cancer cells that gives them a survival advantage.

  • Research of RNA mechanisms

Our researchers are paving the way toward a complete understanding of RNA mechanisms by characterizing the different types of RNA molecules and their mechanisms of action. Our research in this area sheds light on various RNA expressions, such as the relationship between RNA mechanisms and aging and the potential of using microRNA to treat cancer.

  • RNA-based disease diagnosis

Other promising research being done in our laboratories is RNA-based disease diagnosis. For example, certain types of circulating RNA sequences have been found to indicate different possible disease conditions; and microRNA sequences are associated with cancer and involved in the spread of cancerous tumors. In addition, it was discovered that various pathogens such as bacteria or viruses have typical and unique RNA sequences.

The challenges and the promise

In the present, we focus on two key challenges that must be overcome in order to allow the development of RNA-mediated drugs:

1. Stability: The RNA molecule is unstable and is exposed to rapid degradation by environmental factors and various body tissues. Our research is helping to find methods of stabilizing the RNA molecules through chemical modifications.

2. Delivery: With any type of pharmaceutical treatment, an effective mechanism must be developed to transport the drug to its target cells in the body, without inducing an immune response against the drug itself. Our research is helping to design a suitable solutions.

When the scientists will overcome these challenges, and as RNA research advances, they will be able to increase the variety of vaccines, cure incurable, bacterial or viral infectious diseases, and develop vaccines and cancer treatments using RNA-based methods.

Indeed, the molecule of the future is RNA, and we are doing everything we can to bring the future forward.

Our Research