By Kalinowski, Tim on August 2, 2018.
Cutting-edge research science met down-home, local food goodness as the University of Lethbridge’s Alberta RNA Research and Training Institute (ARRTI) set up a booth in the Lethbridge Downtown Farmers Market on Wednesday to mark International RNA Day.
“We do a lot of RNA lectures and events on campus, but for a lot of people in the community they don’t come to campus,” said AARTI research associate Emily Wilton. “They don’t see what we are doing. We wanted to come down to a more public venue where people could meet some of the students and get a chance to chat about what the science is and why they should care about it.”
RNA, which stands for ribonucleic acid, is a close cousin to DNA and has similar qualities in terms of genetic propagation, but unlike DNA, which tends to create permanent, longer term alterations in organisms, RNA has qualities which make it easy to alter in order to serve a short-term, concrete purpose.
“It can be used for medical applications,” explains Wilton. “There are therapeutic RNAs that can be directed right to a target to help find cancer or other viruses. It can be used in agriculture. You can use it almost as a pesticide, where it targets the one target you are looking at, and doesn’t get into the eco-system as it can’t replicate. It can be used in so many different ways.”
AARTI members at the Downtown Farmers Market booth Wednesday offered information on RNA research and engaged the public with various activities, (including making molecule models out of toothpicks and marshmallows), to make their information more fun and accessible.
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