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Nobel Prize for medicine given to doctors who laid foundation for mRNA Covid-19 vaccine

Stewart Perrie

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Nobel Prize for medicine given to doctors who laid foundation for mRNA Covid-19 vaccine

Featured Image Credit: Stephen J. Boitano/LightRocket via Getty Images. Chaiwat Subprasom/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Nobel Prize for medicine has been awarded to the two doctors who laid the foundations for the mRNA coronavirus vaccine.

Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman were singled out for their groundbreaking work that came to the forefront during the pandemic.

Their incredible research helped launch one of the mainstream Covid-19 jabs that have been given to hundreds of millions of people around the world.

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Messenger RNA (mRNA) worked by sending genetic instructions to the body's cells that would allow them to recognize the coronavirus spike protein.

Once these cells were able to identify this part of the virus, they had the tools necessary to destroy it.

Credit: Mark Makela/Getty Images
Credit: Mark Makela/Getty Images

mRNA vaccine technology was used by the likes of Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna for their vaccines.

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The Nobel Prize panel said in their statement: "Through their groundbreaking findings, which have fundamentally changed our understanding of how mRNA interacts with our immune system, the laureates contributed to the unprecedented rate of vaccine development during one of the greatest threats to human health in modern times."

Karikó and Weissman have worked together since 1998, according to Sky News, and have been developing their theory for years.

It was thought for years the mRNA vaccines wouldn't work because the body would immediately start an immune reaction that would ultimately reject the mRNA.

However, the dynamic duo managed to discover in the mid-2000s that if you swapped just one type of molecule, then it would bypass the body's defence systems.

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Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images
Credit: JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP via Getty Images

But it was only when they were able to apply lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) to their mRNA vaccines that allowed them to effectively fight against the coronavirus.

However, Nature notes that many people contributed to LNPs.

Karikó and Weissman's discovery has also been expanded outside of just Covid-19 vaccines.

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There are now mRNA vaccines for things like influenza, malaria, HIV, and Zika that are currently in development.

John Tregoning, a vaccine immunologist at Imperial College London said in a statement: “They demonstrated that changing the type of the RNA nucleotides within the vaccine altered the way in which cells see it.

“This increased the amount of vaccine protein made following the injection of the RNA, effectively increasing the efficiency of the vaccination: more response for less RNA.”

Karikó told Nature that she hopes this win will inspire 'women and immigrants and all of the young ones to persevere and be resilient'.

Topics: News, Technology, Coronavirus

Stewart Perrie
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