Prior to the pandemic, the public mind largely equated genomic medicine with editing DNA — the cell’s architectural reference library.
But patrons of reference libraries don’t check out originals; they make copies. In cells, scientists call those copies messenger RNA, or mRNA.
“It’s the intermediary that takes instructions encoded in your DNA and tells the protein machinery how to make a particular protein,” said microbiologist Dr. BenHur Lee of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
Like the self-destructing messages on “Mission Impossible,” these single-stranded ribose chains stick around just long enough to do their jobs. Their swift subsequent demolition poses both a curse and a blessing for researchers like Joshua Rosenthal, a neurobiologist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
“In some instances, RNA, because it’s not as stable, is attractive,” Rosenthal said. Listen to segment and read more …
Photo: Joshua Rosenthal with a California two-spot octopus (Octopus bimaculoides). Credit: Tom Kleindinst