Funding was recently announced to advance the Li lab’s research into rapid Legionella diagnostic technologies. Congratulations to our McMaster collaborators Dr. Carlos Filipe and Dr. John Brennan of the Biointerfaces Institute and industry partners TGWT Clean Technologies Inc., Cytodiagnostics and Mold and Bacterial Consulting Labs. Read more about it on the McMaster News website.
Programming a topologically constrained DNA nanostructure into a sensor
Checkout the Li Lab’s latest paper in Nature Communications! In a collaborative project between the Li Lab and McMaster’s Biointerfaces Institute, we report a novel reporter system based on mechanically interlocked circular DNA, rolling circle amplification and DNAzymes for highly sensitive bacterial detection.
Read about a new highly specific Clostridium difficile catalytic DNA biosensor in the Li Lab’s latest publication in Angewandte Chemie International Edition. You can also checkout the a profile of the report on the McMaster Daily News.
A Busy Week of Holiday Festivities
The Li Lab came together to participate in the departmental ginger bread house contest, coming up with a 2 part winter wonderland gingerbread house and Eiffel tower. Congrats to us on winning 1st place! Check out the rest of the details at the BBS Facebook Page.
Everyone also came out to the annual Li Lab Christmas lunch.
Finally, our 2nd annual Secret Santa was also a huge success and a lot of fun!
The Li Lab celebrated another Halloween with the Department of Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences by participating in the annual costume contest. Graduate and undergraduate students united to put together a winning Cowboy Rollercoaster themed group costume. Visit the BBS Facebook Page to see all the other great costumes.
Turning up the Volume on Target Detection
Check out the Li Lab’s latest publication in Angewandte Chemie International Edition, “Biosensing by Tandem Reactions of Structure Switching, Nucleolytic Digestion, and DNA Amplification of a DNA Assembly”. Postdoc Meng Liu has developed a novel, high sensitivity DNA based signal amplification technique using an isothermal DNA polymerase and structure switching DNA aptamers. This work brings DNA aptamer based detection technologies another step closer to convenient and cost effective point of care applications.
Hot off the Bench
Evolution of an Enzyme from a Noncatalytic Nucleic Acid Sequence
Life as we know it requires thousands of biological molecules, called enzymes, which carry out chemical reactions and allow life to exist. These molecules did not appear out of thin air – they evolved out of a mixture of the Earth’s first compounds, known as prebiotic soup. One theory for how life originated is known as the “RNA World” Hypothesis: ribonucleic acid (RNA), capable of both encoding information and performing enzymatic reactions, could have been the initiator of the origins of life, bridging the gap between life and non-life.
In this project, we used a sequence of DNA as a proxy for RNA in the origins of life. Wesubjected it to a process called in vitro selection, where we randomly introduced small variations in the sequence and then obliged the sequences to carry out a reaction. The sequences were filtered – only sequences able to perform the specific reaction were permitted to survive. These unique sequences were then subjected to cycles of this process – induction of small variations, and segregation of competent sequences. Using this method, we were able to take a sequence which was incapable of an enzyme-like reaction, and evolve it with minimal changes into a sequence adept at executing the reaction. This experiment allows us a tiny peep into how RNA molecules could have acquired function at the brink of the origin of life.
Li Lab Runs Around the Bay!
Last Sunday March 29th, five members of the Li Lab ran Hamilton’s Around the Bay Road Race, the oldest race in North America. Kha, Shahrzad and Zohaib ran in the 5 km race, while Dingran and Rachel joined Fazmin from the CMCB in running the 30 km race. The event was exciting and these members of the lab were thrilled to finish and receive medals celebrating their accomplishments. They’re looking forward to surpassing their times in next year’s race!
Thesis in Three Minutes!
This year, the Li lab was proud to have three graduate students represent them at McMaster’s 3-minute thesis competition. On February 11th, Sepehr, Dingran and Rachel all presented their research to a non-specialist audience in less than three minutes. These three students made up three quarters of those representing the Biochemistry & Biomedical Sciences Department. Although none of them made it to the finals, they found it an interesting and engaging experience.
Santa came to the Li Lab!
The holiday season was busy time for the lab. As snow piled up outside, the Li lab decided to spice up the winter with the perfect combination of mystery and excitement – a Secret Santa party! Although Dr.Li offered to give the best gift of all time (designing a figure for any upcoming journal publication) unfortunately he was not able to attend the party due to a conference in Singapore. As the Li lab spends a lot of time with each other in the lab on daily basis, we saw each others’ inner playfulness reflected in our gifts. Kha received a colour-changing mug from Jim in which showed a molecular beacon figure when containing hot water.Some of us received mini Lego sets, stuffed animals and even a kitten book for bed time. Most of people did a great job disguising themselves and really made it challenging to guess the identity of their secret Santas. The party ended in everyone’s laughter and a group photo. We thank Dora and Qian for their enthusiasm to organize and host the event and we hope all our readers enjoyed a great holiday and a Christmas full of laughter!