Al-Hashimi Lab

Principal Investigator

Structure and Dynamics of Nucleic Acids

At the fundamental level; life is a collection of cells that house biochemical reactions; and biochemical reactions in turn are a collection of interacting biomolecules that undergo structural and chemical dynamics. Today, we do not possess the experimental means to visualize biochemical reactions at atomic resolution. This has limited our ability to build a truly predictive understanding regarding the elementary processes that govern living cells and ultimately give rise to disease. Thus, we do not fully understand what factors govern mutation probability during DNA replication in a test tube; nor are we able to predict mutational hotspots that give rise to diseases such as cancer. Similarly, we cannot predict from first principles whether or not a drug will bind to a given biomolecular target in a test tube or whether it will be an efficacious therapeutic in cells and in vivo. The goal of the Al-Hashimi laboratory is to develop new methods for ‘imaging’ the dynamics of nucleic acids at atomic resolution and to use this knowledge to help bridge the scales from the test tube, to cells, to organisms. Some of our overarching goals include quantitatively understanding the mechanisms that lead to genomic instability; how RNA folds into 3D structures at the atomic level; and to develop RNA and DNA targeting small molecule therapeutics to address diseases ranging from AIDS to cancer.