Kohl Perry
Kohl Perry headshot
Year: 2023
Faculty Advisor: Joyce Van Eck
Faculty Advisor: Chris Alabi
Mentor: Ritesh Kumar
Mentor: Jo Búi

Examining Lipid Nanoparticles as an effective method for pDNA delivery into tomato plants

The need for viable means of plant gene delivery is more crucial at this moment in time than it possibly ever has been. Plant genetic engineering in its current form uses the process of agrobacterium-mediated delivery along with particle bombardment of the target cells within a plant. These existing methods of tissue culture prove to face many different limitations in plant gene delivery such as a limited yield to said biological target, extended time consumption, risk of gene damage, along with a limitation of applicability to a broad variance of species. This summer, with the resources provided by the Alabi, and Van Eck Labs respectively, We have studied the use of Lipid Nanoparticles to deliver transgenic DNA into plant cells. Lipid Nanoparticle technology has recently been used in the delivery of the Moderna mRNA vaccine into mammalian cells. Our objective this summer is to utilize LNP technology to achieve transport of plasmid DNA into the nucleus of the cells of tomato plants. The complications with a transport delivery vehicle such as an LNP is hypothesized to have to fit a size exclusion limit (SEL). A plant cell’s SEL begins with the rigid cell wall (5-20 nm) and then its semipermeable membrane (~500 nm), compared to just the membrane of a mammalian cell. The LNPs that will be formulated in the Alabi Lab will be 100-200 nm in size to form soft fusogenic cells. The most successful composition of LNPs include a PEG-lipid, phospholipid, ionizable lipid, and cholesterol.

My ten weeks spent at the Boyce Thompson Institute have been pivotal in the development of myself not only as in my career goals, but as a person as well. I would like to thank Megan and Delanie for their continued grace throughout this summer. My experience in the Van Eck, and Alabi labs respectively, has been nothing short of amazing. I will miss the camaraderie, and overall cohesiveness that these labs have displayed to me. Participating in this project has allowed me to learn new techniques, as well as increasing my confidence to conduct meaningful research. I plan to take my experiences back home with me to share the knowledge I have accumulated throughout this program. I am excited to encourage more Tuskegee students to join this program as a token of my gratitude to BTI for this life-changing experience.