This semester I decided to take on 3 credits of research down at the Johns Hopkins Medical campus. I figured if I’m going in to do the work I may as well get rewarded for my effort, right? Knowing that this is a hot button topic, I figured I’d outline quickly what my research is focused on this semester.

I’ll try and keep this as brief and straightforward as possible, so let’s start off with the concept of branches vs linear structures. There’s not much more to it than that. Linear structures are constructed in a straight line, while branched structures have multiple branches originating from a single location. Taking this concept and applying it to PBAEs (an acronym for a long polymer name), which are polymers that are used to bind with DNA.

PBAEs are positive and DNA is negative, so they like each other. When a PBAE and DNA love each other very much, they form what’s called a polyplex. Now a polyplex is basically a tightly packed nanoparticle that contains all the genetic information encoded by the DNA. Because a polyplex has no charge, it’s able to cross into a cell (which are generally negatively charged at the membrane) more easily than plain old DNA. Once inside, they can break apart and the DNA can be delivered directly to the nucleus, allowing for gene delivery.

My research this semester is focused on testing the effectiveness of branched PBAEs as opposed to linear PBAEs. The idea is that branched PBAEs are more effective, so we’re trying to prove that and see why it is. The work is definitely incredibly interesting, and it feels cool to be able to do something that seems so cool and complicated. This is just one of the thousands of projects happening at the medical institute. For anyone looking to do research, there’s something out there that’ll grip your interest as much as this project has gripped mine.