The Desaulniers research group uses tools of organic chemistry, biochemistry, biophysical chemistry, and molecular biology to target, probe, and understand various components of gene expression. Organic chemistry is a powerful research tool for biology, because it allows us to answer key questions of biological importance. Diverse projects in our group range from the use of synthetic organic chemistry to generate new molecules with potential beneficial properties, to cell-based biological characterization of macromolecular-ligand interactions. Our group is multidisciplinary and we work together to achieve common goals. Students wishing to explore possible research projects are invited to stop by my office at any time.
Current Research Areas in Chemical Biology
Chemically Modifying Short Interfering RNAs
One aspect of our research involves utilizing a natural pathway of gene silencing called RNA interference. RNA interference relies on targeting specific genes with short interfering RNAs (siRNAs). Natural duplex siRNAs have shown promising results, but their long-term potential as therapeutics for modern medicine are limited due to their ability to readily decompose, pass poorly across cellular membranes, and exhibit off-target effects. Modifying these RNAs with unnatural functional groups offers promising strategies in overcoming these obstacles. Ultimately, our long-term goals are focused on investigating and predicting the effects that different unique chemical modifications within siRNAs have on its gene target.