Thomas Jefferson University Research Magazine



RNA is essential for the process of turning genes' DNA instructions into the proteins that actually drive cellular functions. The field of RNA biology is dynamic and growing, as researchers discover the functions of a dizzying array of types of RNA. Jefferson’s RNA biology program is multifaceted and rich with potential for both understanding human biology and developing ways to treat or prevent disease.

For example, Ya-Ming Hou, PhD, professor of biochemistry, guides a basic science research program addressing RNA’s roles in a range of biomedical challenges, from cancer to antibiotic resistance. Recently, she may have identified an RNA-based vulnerability in gram-negative bacteria such as E.coli and Salmonella—which are antibioticresistant because their cells have two membranes and numerous toxin pumps that expel antibiotic molecules. Dr. Hou’s group has shown that creating a defect in a specific transfer RNA (tRNA) undermines those defenses. This finding holds promise as a path for pursuing new, more effective antibiotics.