Nov. 3. 2021 — The rumors started final spring however have been resurrected this week when a journalist tweeted erroneously that COVID-19 vaccines comprise one thing referred to as “luciferase.” The journalist, a correspondent with the outlet Newsmax, believed that the identify referenced Lucifer, one other identify for the satan. From there, others added extra layers to the unfaithful story, main scientists to take to social media and clarify what luciferase actually is and does.
COVID vaccines don’t comprise luciferase, and the chemical shouldn’t be named after any of the variations of Lucifer which have dotted human tales since pre-Christian instances. Moderately, the identify is taken from the Latin which means of “lucifer,” which is “gentle bearer.” Luciferases are enzymes that act on high-energy molecules in animals like fireflies. The launched vitality from this breakdown provides these animals their glow, or bioluminescence.
This surprising give attention to bioluminescence presents a teachable second about how researchers have borrowed these enzymes to make use of as lab instruments, together with in animal research of some COVID vaccines.
One use is monitoring the place and when cells use genes. Genes have areas that act like switches, turning use of a gene on or off. Scientists who wish to see when a cell flips a gene “on” can drop within the code for luciferase subsequent to this genetic change. Each time the cell makes use of the goal gene, it additionally makes use of the luciferase code. If researchers additionally add the molecule that luciferase acts on, the result’s a cell that glows when it makes use of the gene — and the luciferase.
Scientists can also use luciferases to tag particular cell sorts and observe them round in a dwelling animal, reminiscent of a mouse. On this approach, for instance, they’ll hint a tumor cell’s journey within the physique. Luciferases have been used for growing diagnostic exams for infectious ailments, together with COVID, and for tracing how viruses enter cells.
In growing COVID vaccines, researchers used a luciferase in some mouse research to trace the place the vaccine mRNA went within the animals. They used the enzyme just for these research, and it isn’t a part of both of the mRNA vaccines given to individuals or any of the opposite COVID vaccines. In different phrases, getting vaccinated won’t trigger you to glow like a firefly.