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Exosome inspired RNA communication between HiErarchicaL poLymer prOtocells

Project description

Artificial exosomes unveil important aspects of RNA communication

Engineering living systems that mimic key biological processes is a major challenge. At the same time, synthetic systems offer a powerful tool for studying cellular communication pathways and understanding cellular processes. The EU-funded RNAhello project seems to have found a way to study RNA-based communication in artificial protocells. The proposed approach is inspired by exosomes, cell-secreted vesicles that carry various macromolecules and facilitate intercellular communication. RNAhello will construct such vesicles from polymers and employ them as mRNA shuttles between distinct protocell populations. Results will provide fundamental knowledge about nucleic acid transfer and establish a powerful tool for drug discovery.


The mimicking of cellular communication pathways and genetic information transfer in synthetic systems is an important target for researchers. These artificial cell systems have the potential to increase understanding of biological and cellular processes, while also having potential applications in healthcare technologies. This project will involve the investigation of exciting new stimuli responsive and highly tuneable hierarchical polymer protocells, and their application in RNA-based communication. Previous generations of polymer protocells have been shown to allow diffusion based communication with small molecules and naked DNA strands – the project will expand upon this by investigating polymersomes as mRNA shuttles between distinct protocell populations. This exosome inspired system will allow the typically unstable mRNA molecules to be protected from degradation in the external medium, thus opening the door to much more lifelike systems, and possible therapeutic applications.

The proposed research project is strongly multidisciplinary, and involves a combination of polymer chemistry, nanomaterials engineering, cell biology, and imaging techniques. RNAhello includes both the transfer of knowledge to the host institution and the training of the candidate in new advanced techniques. Results have the potential to increase understanding of biological mechanisms in relation to the complex hurdle of the nucleic acid based transfer, whilst also providing innovative platform material for treatment of disease. Additional project goals include: engaging with the non-scientific public through outreach methods; gaining of further commercial training for potential exploitation of research; presentation of research results at international conferences; and the preparation of additional funding proposals.


Net EU contribution
€ 175 572,48
5612 AE Eindhoven

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Zuid-Nederland Noord-Brabant Zuidoost-Noord-Brabant
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 175 572,48