Friday, December 10, 2021

Amanda Graf Studies Multiplexed Antigens on DNA Nanoparticles for Vaccine Development

Vaccines and the technologies used to develop them are more relevant now than ever. If you had asked me or my colleagues a year ago, none of us would have ever guessed that vaccines would be the global hot topic they are now.

After taking Dr. Veneziano’s tissue engineering class, I met with him to discuss the research going on in his lab and discovered that he has been working on DNA nanoparticles with the intention of using them in a vaccine for several years now. The process of making these 3D nanostructure scaffolds begins with isolating and purifying single stranded DNA.  I typically do this right when I get to the lab each morning using an aPCR machine (antisense polymerase chain reaction) and then isolate the single stranded DNA that results from that using gel electrophoresis and a centrifuge with elution buffer to isolate the single stranded DNA from the other byproducts. From there, I fold the protein into the desired shape and test its binding capabilities.  Throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall semester, I will be testing the binding rates of my desired nanoparticle with varied antigen properties and attachment configurations.

 This project has been very insightful and ties directly into my future plans to become a physician, possibly specializing in infectious diseases.  Working with Dr. Veneziano has allowed me to develop a better understanding of not only what it’s like to work in a wet lab but has also compelled me to further explore topics outside of my normal course of study and think more about what advancements could be made through supplementary research in the field of platform vaccine development.