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UW and MIT Team Up To Improve Medical Diagnostics with NIH Grant

Georg Seelig, UW Ron Weiss, MIT

A five-year National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for $3 million will fund groundbreaking collaborative work between UW and MIT researchers. Electrical Engineering and Computer Science & Engineering Associate Professor Georg Seelig, together with MIT Professor of Biological Engineering Ron Weiss, will further the development of molecular-scale computing devices that can diagnose diseases from inside living cells.

Currently, there is no general-purpose diagnostic tool that can be programmed to detect multiple RNA markers and analyze them in the original setting. RNA strands serve a key role in the process by which genes express themselves into visible traits, triggering diseases. To address this need, the researchers plan to build small-footprint computing devices using multi-input sensory circuits that are programmed to detect information about cells, such as various diseases and cancer. The small-scale computing devices will live inside cells.

In order to analyze RNA strands, which are similar to DNA but are comprised of only one strand, molecular sensors and logic gates will be made from RNA. The gates will interact with the biological RNA through a process called “strand displacement.” Each system will be designed to detect one specific disease and, once established, the technology can readily be adapted to diagnose various types of cancer and diseases.

Congratulations, Georg and Ron!

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