Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Ryan Tran Rose Hills

Investigating Cellular Conditions that Promote CRISPR-Cas Acquisition

Just over a decade ago, research in a revolutionary genetic engineering tool known as CRISPR-Cas (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) was pioneered here at UC Berkeley by the Doudna Lab. While the use of CRISPR in disease treatments has been well documented, much of the biology behind the diverse functions of CRISPR in their original hosts, bacteria and archaea, remain unknown. CRISPR-Cas (CRISPR-associated) systems are a type of bacterial immune system that can recognize and inactivate foreign genetic invaders. One fundamental question is how these CRISPR systems remember foreign genetic invaders. During the stage of CRISPR-Cas mediated immunity known as adaptation, CRISPR-Cas proteins integrate sequences from foreign genetic elements into the bacterial genome, thereby allowing the cell to recognize and destroy the source of that foreign DNA in the future. However, how CRISPR-Cas proteins choose these sequences, how these substrates for integration are generated, and the cellular conditions that promote adaptation, remain undefined. As such, we are investigating cellular conditions and host factors that contribute to CRISPR-Cas adaptation, with the hope of later elucidating the mechanism of spacer acquisition. Ultimately, this research has the potential to be developed as an important genetic tool, in that CRISPR-Cas proteins involved in adaptation can be used to store meaningful nucleic acid sequences within the genome to create cellular histories for later gene editing or disease fighting purposes.

Message To Sponsor

Thank you immensely for your sponsorship of my research endeavors. The SURF Rose Hills Fellowship has allowed me to develop a range of interdisciplinary skills that I will continue to hone throughout my career as a scientist. CRISPR has the potential to be a revolutionary biotechnology tool and I am excited for the discoveries that will be made during the course of this project, which would not be possible without your support.
Major: B.S. Chemical Biology
Mentor: David Savage (Faculty), Brittney Thornton (Graduate Student)
Sponsor: SURF Rose Hills
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