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Deciphering RNA

Nobel laureate Craig Mello, who on March 21 will deliver the Distinguished Keynote address at the University's 6th Annual RNA Symposium.  

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 12, 2019) — There’s a blueprint encoded in our DNA that tells our cells how to make the essential proteins they need to fulfill specific functions. But our cells need a critical molecule to serve as the translator of that blueprint. That’s ribonucleic acid, or RNA.

Delving into RNA’s working will be the focus of The RNA Institute’s 6th Annual RNA Symposium, titled “The Language of RNA in Disease and Development.” The March 21-22 event brings together scientific experts — including a Nobel laureate — faculty, students and industry professionals who conduct basic, applied and translational research in the RNA field.

M. Joan Curcio, associate professor of Biomedical Sciences and co-organizer of the symposium with Associate Professor Melinda Larsen of Biological Sciences, explains the “language of RNA” as referring to “the molecular patterns that characterize RNA’s role in the biological world. Deciphering these patterns and how they influence the development of complex organisms, starting from a single cell, as well as how RNA functions go awry in disease, are the symposium’s themes.”

Larsen noted that science is just starting to learn the intricacies of RNA’s workings. “There is a whole extra layer of complexity in translating the message, which are modifications that occur on both the DNA and RNA, that have really come into the spotlight in the past few years,” she said. “We are beginning to understand how RNA with its modifications and specific structures allows us to develop into adults and how it can contribute to the development of disease.”

Leading Voices on RNA

A distinguished line-up of presenters from around the United States is headlined by Craig Mello, winner of the Nobel Prize in physiology in 2006. “Our speakers run the gamut from early career scientists to Dr. Mello and other nationally renowned researchers,” said Curcio. “They will present seminal findings ranging from fundamental discoveries on the function of RNA to the application of such discoveries in understanding development and preventing and treating human disease.”

“Many researchers are using RNAs to diagnose diseases and develop treatments for diseases,” said Larsen. “We will hear from world-class speakers on their most recent research aimed at understanding the language of RNA in order to comprehend how our cells work and how to use this information in medicine.”

In addition to several keynote speakers, the symposium offers presentations from faculty, postdocs and students who were selected from submitted abstracts, and several workshops where faculty, students and industry representatives will present findings and network with colleagues.

“The workshops are a very special aspect of the symposium,” said Curcio. “Scientists from the University share their expertise on cutting-edge scientific methods to translate the language of RNA. These workshops function not only to disseminate knowledge but also to showcase the diverse strengths of UAlbany and its RNA Institute’s faculty.”

This current edition of the symposium effectively builds upon the success of the previous five. “The RNA Symposium has really helped to solidify the University at Albany’s place on the map of research in RNA,” said Larsen.

The event, attended by invitation, will be held in the Performing Arts Center.

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusiness, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.