2017 Suddath Award Presentation

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The Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering & Bioscience awards the Suddath Symposium graduate student awards to three students for their grand achievements in biological or biochemical research at the molecular or cellular level. The first place awardee presents their work to the Petit Institute community during the annual Suddath Symposium.

"Building a Model Prebiotic Nucleic Acid Replication Cycle in Viscous Environments"

2017 Suddath Award Winner
Christine He
Doctoral Candidate
School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Martha Grover, Ph.D. - Advisor

Transfer of genetic information is a fundamental process in all living organisms. Many hypotheses concerning the nature of early life assume that genetic information was once transferred through the template-directed synthesis of RNA, prior to the evolution of genetically encoded protein synthesis. However, despite more than half a century of research into the chemical origins of nucleic acids, identifying a robust, prebiotically plausible route to template-directed nucleic acid synthesis remains an elusive goal.

In prebiotic conditions, copying of a nucleic acid duplex is limited by a biophysical problem know as strand inhibition: transferring information from a template strand in the presence of its complementary strand is inhibited by the stability of the template duplex. Here, I show that solvent viscosity can be utilized to overcome strand inhibition, enabling information transfer from a gene-length sequence (>300 nt) within a longer template duplex. These results suggest that viscous environments on the early Earth, generated by water evaporation, could have facilitated nucleic acid replication—particularly of long, structured sequences, such as ribozymes.

Lunch to be served immediately following presentation.

The Parker H. Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience, an internationally recognized hub of multidisciplinary research at the Georgia Institute of Technology, brings engineers, scientists, and clinicians together to solve some of the world’s most complex health challenges. With 18 research centers, more than 190 faculty members, and $24 million in state-of-the-art facilities, the Petit Institute is translating scientific discoveries into game-changing solutions to solve real-world problems.


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