WHAT WE DO
Certain viruses, like HIV, use a mechanism called programmed -1 ribosomal frameshifting to control gene expression (changing which genes are expressed and when). Viruses need a specific ratio of structural to non-structural proteins to form a mature viral particle that can go on to infect another cell. The Found in Translation stream studies different viruses predicted to use this mechanism. Our goal is to confirm whether the viral sequences promote frameshifting and whether we can mutate the sequences to eliminate frameshifting.
WHY IT MATTERS
The Found in Translation stream focuses on human and animal viruses for which there are no vaccines or treatments. Our goal is to determine whether the viruses studied use frameshifting so we can target this mechanism to weaken the virus for future vaccine development. There are several vaccines currently in use against viruses that use this weakened virus approach that allows vaccinated people to develop antibodies against the virus without feeling sick. These are called live attenuated vaccines. Examples include the MMR vaccine (against measles, mumps, and rubella) and FluMist® (nasal spray vaccine against the flu).
WHAT YOU LEARN
You do not need to have wet lab experience to join our stream. All students will learn the basic skills required to work in a molecular biology lab, including micropipetting, aseptic technique, molecular cloning, meeting biosafety level 2 environment guidelines, and human cell culture and transfection. Students will work on independent research projects in which they clone viral sequences into a reporter plasmid and test the function of these sequences in a human cell line.
Throughout their time in the stream, students also develop science communication skills as they prepare collaborative research proposals and present their research results at The FIRE Summit.