This is not the first time that discoveries about RNA have won the Nobel Prize for Medicine, but this year’s edition has a different meaning: “The whole world benefited from this discovery”. For CNN Portugal, researcher Cecília Maria Arraiano talks about the importance of this work and these vaccines
The discovery of an RNA pattern that holds the key to making safe and effective vaccines against Covid-19 has won this year’s Nobel Prize in Medicine for Kathleen Carrico and Drew Weissman. But the pandemic accelerated what they had long studied, which was actually going against the tide for decades: The 68-year-old Hungarian researcher, who had been dedicated to researching RNA since the 1980s, joined the North American scientist in 64. Age in 1997, always this DNA cousin in his eyes. Both men’s persistence in the midst of a pandemic proved decisive.
“The Nobel was awarded to those who do basic science, who fought hard to achieve this, against all odds. When she [Katalin] I researched and worked with the corona virus and they said it was a cold virus but the world needed it and everyone benefited from this discovery.”.
Cecília Maria Arraiano, biologist and researcher ITQB – Institute of Chemical and Biotechnology at Universidade Nova de Lisboa, has dedicated himself for years to the study of RNA – more precisely “how viruses come up with their own machinery to make their RNA” – and is delighted to be awarded another prize for research on this molecule. “It’s a brave new world of RNA, helping us in medicine and in the world,” he lamented, adding that “sometimes bureaucracy stops innovation,” and that, in this case, the arrival of a global public health emergency “made a big breakthrough possible.”
The two researchers were awarded prizes for their discoveries related to modifications of nucleoside bases that allowed the development of effective mRNA vaccines against Covid-19. “What they discovered is that when RNA is introduced, our body reacts immediately, it wants to kill it immediately, and we’re ready for that. Then, they realized that there’s another type of RNA, transfer RNA, that doesn’t immediately confer immunity. There’s little RNA that has to do to not give immunity. They checked the changes, and it only took one small change in the messenger RNA for our body to no longer attack it, so it could now be used. [o RNA] As a vaccine”, explains the Portuguese scientist.
On CNN Portugal, Cecília Maria Arraiano highlighted the “stubbornness” of her Hungarian colleague, who “led to a great scientific and medical breakthrough”. Despite working alongside Weissmann, who gave an interview to TVI (from the same group as CNN Portugal), Carrico is seen as the face of RNA research, particularly as it relates to the coronavirus.
“When this young woman studied in Hungary and then moved to the United States, I want to highlight her perseverance and resilience. What she studied was no passion, but it was a Nobel Prize for basic science, not applied science. First we need to know the basics, the methods,” said the ITQB researcher. exemplifies.
But for Cecília Maria Arraiano, it is even more important because of the doors it can open, not only in reducing the shame and distrust that still exists in these noble vaccines, but also in increasing industry’s interest in studying this relative of DNA. Other pathologies, for example, with cancer, in particular, explains the Portuguese researcher, “the costs are very low, personalized, fast and effective drugs can be created, human and veterinary medicine “.
According to the Portuguese scientist, “RNA is the fastest and most effective way to fight the external agent” and “it can never be inserted into the genome, only DNA, it is very easy to create, it can be in vitro” . And, he adds, “it’s possible to adapt the RNA to whatever virus and disease you want, it’s very easy, plus, it enters our body and does its job, it’s not something that stays, it’s temporary”.
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