Kristjan Eerik Kaseniit
MIT EECS - Draper Laboratory Undergraduate Research and Innovation Scholar
RNA Strand Displacement for Sensing, Processing, and Actuation in Mammalian Cells
Synthetic biology is a field at the intersections of EECS and biology. By using libraries of biological parts (e.g. proteins; DNA, RNA pieces) and modules (e.g. logic gates), SynBio has applications ranging from programmed tissue formation to smart therapeutic delivery systems. Here, we develop a novel approach to performing digital logic operations inside a mammalian cell. Based on the in vitro method of DNA strand displacement, cascades of entropy-driven reactions perform calculations. Our goal is to genetically encode an RNA strand displacement circuit that is expressed from DNA to perform computation, e.g. determining a cells current state and responding appropriately. Among other benefits, this approach enables a ~10-fold smaller nucleotide footprint for SynBio circuitry.
I have been working on various aspects of this project for over a year, starting in spring 2012 as a member of the MIT iGEM team. In the summer of 2013 I interned at Genzyme Corporation in the Analytical Research & Development department where I improved an in-house chemical proteomics pathway and developed new bioinformatics tools.