Our understanding of the functional output of the mammalian genome has enormously increased in the last two decades, and it is fair to say that this has profoundly changed our comprehension of how a cell works and of how evolution has shaped biological complexity.
Our initiative focuses on non-coding RNAs whose knowledge has experienced the most rapid growth in the recent years, thanks to the advent of omic technologies and next-generation sequencing. For years we have believed that the functions of genomes dwell only in the genes that encode proteins, called protein-coding genes. These genes produce messenger RNAs which are converted into proteins, structural macromolecules or enzymes that function as building blocks or by catalyzing chemical reactions within the cell.
Differently from messenger RNAs, non-coding RNAs are not associated with protein products, nevertheless they can still perform highly specialized functions in the cell. A better understating of the non-coding RNA functions is therefore pivotal to uncover the mechanisms underlying diseases such as Neurodevelopmental, Neurodegenerative and Cancer.
Due to their complexity and the difficulties in understanding their mechanisms, non-coding RNAs are a demanding challenge for scientists. However, these molecules represent one of the most promising resources to be exploited for biotechnology and human health.