The field of long non-coding RNAs is moving from the fringe into mainstream research, bringing a number of young researchers with it, writes Amy Maxmen at Nature. While there is enthusiasm for the field, she adds, lncRNA studies can still be difficult to tackle. “There are no optimized experimental protocols and few clues to the habits of individual lncRNAs, so experiments often fail,” she says. “And when they do work, investigators need to go the extra mile to convince reviewers that their results are real.”
“I have had so many conversations where people think I’m just full of crap,” Kevin Morris, from the Scripps Research Institute tells Nature. “You need a thick skin to be in this field. You need to do it because you love it.”
And researchers who are taking on the problem are in demand, Maxmen says. Case Western Reserve University’s Saba Valadkhan “was consumed with curiosity about the possibility that long RNA sequences that do not encode proteins nevertheless have a function — enhancing or suppressing gene expression,” and more senior researchers noticed. Valadkhan says that before she even began to look for a job, she was hearing about job openings.
Further, there are funding opportunities for lncRNA studies. Maxmen notes that 28 grant applications for lncRNA studies were approved in 2012, and that more a announcements are specifically targeted at lncRNA studies.