RNA Engineering for Public Health: Innovations in RNA-Based Diagnostics and Therapeutics

Walter Thavarajah, Laura M. Hertz, David Z. Bushhouse, Chloeacute M. Archuleta, Julius B. Lucks

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


RNA is essential for cellular function: From sensing intra- and extracellular signals to controlling gene expression, RNA mediates a diverse and expansive list of molecular processes. A long-standing goal of synthetic biology has been to develop RNA engineering principles that can be used to harness and reprogram these RNA-mediated processes to engineer biological systems to solve pressing global challenges. Recent advances in the field of RNA engineering are bringing this to fruition, enabling the creation of RNA-based tools to combat some of the most urgent public health crises. Specifically, new diagnostics using engineered RNAs are able to detect both pathogens and chemicals while generating an easily detectable fluorescent signal as an indicator. New classes of vaccines and therapeutics are also using engineered RNAs to target a wide range of genetic and pathogenic diseases. Here, we discuss the recent breakthroughs in RNA engineering enabling these innovations and examine how advances in RNA design promise to accelerate the impact of engineered RNA systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-286
Number of pages24
JournalAnnual Review of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
StatePublished - Jun 7 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Chemistry


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