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After a discovery ten years ago showed that extracellular vesicles (EVs) contain RNA rather than just cell waste, Dr. Ter-Ovanesyan has studied these cellular products. This discussion explores:

  • Why it’s significant that RNA is shown to exist outside of cellular boundaries.
  • What puzzles scientists need to solve to use EVs for new solutions in synthetic biology research.
  • The significant advances in health that EVs, also called exosomes, may offer, such as ways to address dementia, and already-developed technology such as detecting prostate cancer through finding EVs in the urine.

Dr. Dmitry Ter-Ovanesyan is working as a post-doc at Harvard with the Wyss Institute in extracellular vesicle research. He’s drawn to the great potential and challenges these exosomes offer scientists in solving multiple health issues.

While EVs were discovered about 40 years ago, it wasn’t until two studies published in 2007 announced that they contained RNA that the scientific community focused more energy their way. Dr. Ter-Ovanesyan was a student at the time and was immediately drawn to these RNA-carrying vesicles.

He explains why RNA is so significant in the complexity of messages it might carry from one cell to another. He also describes the multiple challenges these exosomes present because of their heterogeneous nature and difficulties in isolating them. But he recounts the great potential they may offer, from offering doctors information about the brain or heart by supplying RNA information to RNA drug possibilities through synthetic biology research.

For more information, see his contact information on the Wyss Institute page (https://wyss.harvard.edu/team/research-scientists-engineers/dima-ter-ovanesyan/_ and Harvard’s Church Lab page (https://genetics.med.harvard.edu/lab/church/dter-ovanesyan). His publications are listed on PubMed as well.

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