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Researchers generate free-standing RNA membrane

South Korean researchers successfully generated a free-standing RNA membrane with a macroscopic structure, which will help expand its medicinal applications, the Science Ministry said Monday.

The RNA membrane can be used for researching how RNA molecules inhibit gene expression, a biological process that scientists study to find cures for various diseases.

A team of researchers led by Lee Jong-bum, a professor of biological engineering at the University of Seoul, said they managed to enzymatically generate a “robust and free-standing” RNA membrane without any polymer support or complexion.

By using complementary rolling circle transcription ― a process where a particular segment of DNA is copied into RNA ― and evaporation-induced self-assembly, Lee’s team produced an RNA membrane the size of a fingernail.

The characteristics of the RNA membrane can be easily altered via simple process, Lee said. His team already used it to carry doxorubicin ― a drug used in cancer chemotherapy ― and confirmed the newly-generated RNA membrane’s potential to be used as a carrier.

“By manipulating the sequencing of the RNA membrane, we put a variety of biological functions in it such as inhibiting harmful proteins or helping generation of useful proteins,” Lee said.

He said further study is needed on how to specifically manipulate the size and characteristics of the membrane.

The researchers said the RNA membrane could potentially be used in the form of a transdermal patch that can help the body regenerate skin or filter harmful elements.

The study was published July 4 in the online edition of the journal Nature Communications.

By Yoon Min-sik (