The Analytical and Surface Chemistry (ASC) Program of the Division of Chemistry will support the CAREER development plan of Prof. Sapna Deo of Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI). Prof. Deo's integrated research and education program focuses on the development of bioanalytical detection methods that are rapid, highly sensitive, have low background, and require no separation step to detect nucleic acid targets in a variety of matrices including cells, clinical samples and environmental samples. Prof. Deo and her students will develop a highly sensitive one-step hybridization-based detection method for target RNAs based on Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer (BRET) from the enzyme Renilla luciferase (hRluc) to a quantum dot (QD). The research of Prof. Deo will provide excellent training opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students, and postdoctoral research associates in a highly multidisciplinary area at the forefront of scientific research. Prof. Deo will integrate her research project with an on-going educational effort to increase involvement of high school students and teachers in bioanalytical research.
Detection of ribonucleic acids (RNAs) (ribosomal RNAs, messenger RNAs, silencing RNAs, micro RNAs) is an emerging field in molecular biotechnology that has played a fundamental role in the rapid and accurate identification of microorganisms, gene regulation analysis, and molecular diagnostics. In the course of our National Science Foundation CAREER Award (2008-2012), our laboratory has focused on the development of luminescence-based platforms for nucleic acid sensing. Among the various methods for the detection of small oligonucleotides, the use of luminescent reporters provides for high sensitivity with relatively simple instrumentation – a significant advantage for broad application in laboratory and clinical environments. With the goal of clinical and environmental testing in mind, we have developed a diverse set of methods and reporter combinations to address the need for rapid, sensitive, and straightforward detection platforms that can easily be transitioned to even modestly-equipped laboratories. The intellectual merit of the research performed is that it addresses key challenges in RNA detection, specifically those related to achieving high sensitivity, low background, and faster detection. This work has resulted in over 20 scientific manuscripts and several scientific presentations. Several graduate, undergraduate, and high school students have been involved in this research and they have co-authored publications and presentations. Linking these students in research and scholarly activities generated interest in learning science in these students and it provided them opportunities for careers in science. Additionally, the research performed had a broader impact on biological and environmental research through its applications in genomic analysis, molecular diagnostics, and microorganism identification. The assays developed for the detection of microRNAs, which are emerging biomarkers of cancer were employed in the analysis of patient samples. This method provided a simple way to detect microRNAs in a variety of patient samples. Our research also resulted in the filing of a patent disclosure.