5 Creative Ways to Teach RNA Extraction Without Lecturing

Akanksha Saxena

RNA extraction is vital for deciphering genetic information encoded within an organism’s genome. From enabling us to study gene expression, biomarker identification to disease mechanisms, RNA extraction with its advancements have enhanced the efficiency and accuracy of interpreting RNA data.  

When students are introduced to its key components like disrupting cellular integrity to release RNA, inhibiting RNases, and purifying RNA from other cellular components, they often feel intimidated due to the lack of basic concept clarity of each of these steps and its significance in the lengthy RNA extraction protocol. It can be even more petrifying for our learners when students don’t understand the relevance of this technique in the real world.

To help educators plan well-organized lectures on the subject, we have compiled some resources here. The underlisted 5 innovative ways can be a game-changer for you and your students.

1. Use Interactive Models and Simulations

Models and simulations can serve as powerful tools for educators to simplify complex scientific concepts related to RNA extraction. These educational aids can provide visual and interactive experiences allowing students to better understand the differences between RNA and DNA, as well as the ones between active and inactive genes. 

An example of how model-based teaching can simplify the idea of differences between RNA and DNA ispicturization and illustration of contrasting structural features between RNA and DNA molecules”. Such an actively engaging learning experience also offered by Labster in the RNA Extraction Simulation can make a difference in both classroom teaching and learning outcomes of students.

2. Learning with Games and Activities

Games and interactive activities can be instrumental in simplifying the science underlying RNA extraction. By gamifying the learning experience, research students can actively engage with concepts such as “tissue isolation from diverse organisms”, “cell lysis techniques”, etc. 

Scientifically and technically designed games like the one offered by Labster can enhance the understanding of core ideas over which any extraction protocol is designed. This can also promote a deeper appreciation for the intricacies of RNA extraction. As students virtually select organisms (plants, animals, microbes) and navigate through simulated laboratory settings to isolate RNA from different tissue types, they can learn about variations in sample prearation.

3. Infusing Technology into Study Plans

By utilizing technologically designed methods, educators can enhance the learning experience for students exploring RNA extraction. Virtual laboratories offer interactive simulations for mRNA purification where students get the room to practice isolation techniques. Multimedia demonstrations are another way that students can engage with the visual explanations of essential chemicals and reagents like chloroform solution and magnetic beads. Interactive modules are a boon as they aid in developing a basic understanding of different RNA types like mRNA, rRNA, tRNA, miRNA, and siRNA. 

These approaches can simplify complex concepts, engage students actively, and foster a deeper appreciation for RNA extraction’s significance in scientific research. By incorporating these tools, you can empower students to explore the world of RNA extraction in a dynamic and immersive manner.

RNA extraction lab setup in a virtual lab.
Discover Labster's RNA Extraction virtual lab today!

4. Inspiring Learners by Connecting to Career Prospects

You can instill a sense of purpose and inspiration by showcasing diverse career opportunities for learning RNA extraction for your students. You can further plan on inviting research experts and creating windows of opportunities for hands-on experiences for familiarizing them with the extraction steps and reagents.

Highlighting medical research success stories is another way that can motivate students. If you can effectively bridge the gap between theory & practice, you can move the mountain as students often fail to do that on their own. This way you can inspire them to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to pursue successful careers in molecular biology and contribute to advancements in science and healthcare.

You can introduce them to a wide range of career opportunities that require expertise in RNA extraction and molecular techniques: 

  • Biomedical research
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Genetic engineering
  • Agriculture
  • Diagnostics

In the Labster’s Virtual Lab, students can engage in a biopsy intervention at a medical facility and learn RNA extraction and purification from pig fat tissue samples.   

Preview of RNA Screenshot 1 simulation.

5. Connecting the Topic to Real-World Applications

Highlighting medical breakthroughs, agricultural advancements, biotechnological innovations, environmental monitoring, and industry relevance, you can provide students with a clear understanding of the practical significance of RNA extraction. 

Ultimately, this approach will empower learners to apply their knowledge of RNA extraction to address real-world challenges and contribute to scientific advancements. One can demonstrate how RNA extraction techniques contribute to the field of “personalized medicine”. For instance, you can explain how RNA extracted from patient samples helps identify disease biomarkers, develop targeted therapies, and monitor treatment effectiveness. 

You can also highlight examples where RNA extraction has played a pivotal role in understanding diseases like cancer, infectious diseases, and genetic disorders, inspiring them with the potential to make life-saving contributions!

Final thoughts

RNA extraction is a fundamental technique in molecular biology that enables the study of gene expression, biomarker identification, and understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying diseases. Empowering students to unravel the secrets of genetic information, you can simplify RNA extraction by breaking it down into manageable steps!

With clear explanations, engaging visuals, and real-life examples, you can ignite curiosity and inspire students to explore its innumerable applications across fields.

Try our free 30-day All Access Educator's Pass today and teach with the RNA Extraction simulation alongside 300+ other virtual labs!


  1. Toni, L. S., Garcia, A. M., Jeffrey, D. A., Jiang, X., Stauffer, B. L., Miyamoto, S. D., & Sucharov, C. C. (2018). Optimization of phenol-chloroform RNA extraction. MethodsX, 5, 599-608.
  2. Chomczynski, P., Sacchi, N. The single-step method of RNA isolation by acid guanidinium thiocyanate–phenol–chloroform extraction: twenty-something years on. Nat Protoc 1, 581–585 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1038/nprot.2006.83

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