What is mRNA, the technology in the vaccine that could save the world from the pandemic

Berlin, Germany.

The Obsession of the Hungarian-Born Scientist Katalin Kariko for examining a substance llamada mRNA fight diseases once cost him a faculty position at a prestigious American university, which rejected the idea Like a dead end

Now you pioneering work, that paved the way for vaccines against covid-19 de go Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna laboratories, could be what saves the world from one 100 years of pandemic.

“This is normal astonishing”AFP said in a video call from his home in the city Philadelphia, adding that she wasn’t used to worrying after years of working in the dark.

For her, this context shows why “it is important that the science must rely on many levels “.

Kariko, 65, spent much of the time 1990s writing grant applications to conduct your research on the “messenger ribonucleic acid”, genetic molecules that tell cells which proteins produce, essential to our living and healthy bodies.

She believed that MRNA was the key in front of treat diseases to have more protein the right kind can help, as in brain recovery after a stroke.

But the University of Pennsylvania, where Kariko was on her way to obtain a professorship, she decided after the rejections of grants. “I was ready for promotion, and then they demoted me and expected me to walk out the door,” said Kariko.

Kariko still didn’t have one green card in front of remain legal on the job market and had one job renew your visa. He also knew he couldn’t send his daughter to college without the significant one discount for the center staff.

So he decided to continue as lower level researcher, living on a meager salary.

It was a low point in his life and career. But “I thought … you know, the table (of the laboratory) is here, I just have to do it better experiments. “

Experience has shaped his philosophy deal with adversity in all aspects of life. “You have to think carefully and then you have to say ‘What can I do?‘Not that way you waste tyou live, ”he explained.

That determination is the hallmark of her family: her daughter Susan Francia eventually went to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a master’s degree and won gold medals with the Olympic team of rowing from the US. in 2008 and 2012.

Twin Advances

In the body, the MRNA gives instructions to cells stored in DNA, the molecules that carry all of us genetic code.

In the late 1980s, many of the scientific community aimed at using DNA for administrationgene therapy, but Kariko believed that MRNA was also very promising, like most diseases are not hereditary and do not need solutions that change permanently our genetics.

However, he first had to overcome a major problem: in animal experiments, the Synthetic mRNA caused one massive inflammatory response when the immune system detected an invading element andI rushed to fight it.

Kariko and her senior associate Drew Weissman discovered that one of the four building blocks of the Synthetic mRNA failed, and they were able to fix the problem by exchanging it for one customized version.

Then they published an article about the advance in 2005. They already found a new way in 2015 Administering mRNA to mice, using a fat layer called ‘lipid nanoparticles’ that prevent the mRNA from being broken down and help keep it inside the right part of cells.

Those two innovations were key to vaccines against COVID-19 developed by Pfizer and his German partner BioNTech, dwhere Kariko is now Senior Vice President, as well as for injections manufactured by Modern.

Both work through the human cells the instructions for producing a coronavirus surface protein, which contains a infection and trains the immune system for when you meet him real virus.

See: French President Emmanuel Macron tests positive for coronavirus

New treatments

He MRNA breaks down quickly and the instructions it gives to the body are not permanent, making the technology aideal platform for a variety of uses, Kariko said.

These can range from new vaccines against complaint, faster to develop and more effective than the current generation, until new treatments for others diseases.

For example, AstraZeneca eis currently working on a mRNA treatment for patients with heart failure, which provides signaling proteins that stimulate the production of new ones blood vessels.