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LEAD SUPERVISOR: Professor Chunxiao Song, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine

Co-supervisor: Professor Yang Shi, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine

 

Commercial partner: Exact Sciences Innovation, Oxford

Cellular RNA is decorated with diverse chemical modifications, which participate in all aspects of RNA biology. The multitude of modifications in RNA add a new layer to gene regulation, leading to the emerging field of epitranscriptomics. Interest in understanding the functions of RNA modifications, as well as the related molecular mechanisms, has been growing, driving progress in developing chemical and biochemical tools to detect specific modifications within the transcriptomes. New technologies are important for disease early detection and diagnostics, as well as uncovering biological functions, and they can also drive conceptual revolutions.

5-Methylcytidine (m5C) and 5-hydroxymethylcytidine (hm5C) are two of the major RNA modifications in eukaryotic cells, however, our understanding of them is still very limited due to the lack of reliable sequencing methods. This project aims to develop novel technologies to sequence m5C and hm5C. We will develop various chemical biology and genome engineering approaches to detect m5C and hm5C directly and quantitatively at base-level resolution. With efficient technologies developed, we will uncover the transcriptome-wide distribution of sequence m5C and hm5C and study the role of m5C and hm5C in tumour development.

In addition, in collaboration with Exact Sciences Innovation, a molecular diagnostics company specializing in the detection of early stage cancers, we will further explore potential clinical application of m5C and hm5C. Specifically, we will explore m5C and hm5C as biomarkers in the circulating cell-free RNA for non-invasive cancer diagnostics, which could contribute to the full potential of liquid biopsy for cancer diagnostics.

Apply using course: DPhil in Clinical Medicine

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