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Xiaowei Zhang

My research focuses on engineering novel synthetic receptors to create new tools for better medicine. Synthetic receptors are protein sensors on the cell surface that can change how a cell behaves when they sense the specific signal. Most of these existing synthetic receptors share a common activation mechanism that relies on cutting up a protein when the signal is present. This mechanism, however, leads to problems including slow in response, undesired immune reactions, and difficulty in delivery. To fix these issues, I propose the design of a novel synthetic receptor called LIDAR. Instead of cutting up proteins, LIDAR uses a process called "ligand-induced dimerization-activated RNA editing" using a special human protein called ADAR. This process provides LIDAR with unique advantages. LIDAR is easier to be delivered by RNA into the cells, and it's more flexible in how it responds to different signals. This makes LIDAR a promising tool not just for making new medicines with RNA but also for studying how molecules work and how cells communicate in scientific research.