Studying the enemy

Studying the enemy

In the midst of thiscoronavirus pandemic, many scientists seek to understand the virus,how it spreads, how it enters and affects the human body.We in Chile, unknowingly, were already studying and understanding one of their henchmen for years.

I'm going to tell you a real story,illustrating the importance of science research in general,that happens day by day in universities and laboratories, but sometimes a lot of people, rightly so,wonders about its usefulness or priority when comparing with other shorter-term needs.

I am a scientist, phD in Biophysics and currently work in theFaculty of Liberal Arts of Adolfo Ibañez Universityas a science teacher.I aim to convey to my students the importance of science,developing critical thinking in them.

In the midst of thisPandemic,this message is much easier to conveyand students may experience, like many of those in their homes, the importance of these discoveries and advances in curbing the spread of this virus.But this story has to do with the study of basic science, often misunderstood, which requires hours of explanation in these courses, because it costs a lot to explain to students what their real importance is.

A month ago, at an online team meeting with theDr. Christian A.M. Wilsonof theUniversidad de Chile, with which I collaborate,we discussed results from a study on a protein that, for Dr. Wilson, is very important called BiP (Immunoglobulin Binding protein).

TheBiP is a protein that, in simple words, helps molecules enter a cell.It is known that, when this protein fails, there are diseases associated with its malfunction. From my training in Physics, my interest in this protein is experimental and my approach to it and the study we conducted was to measure mechanical properties, that is,What if I push it or stretch it?Does the protein work or does it stop working? This study was part of a work that we publish, for which we develop innovative techniques and that is a central part of this interdisciplinary work that we carry out with Dr. Wilson's laboratory (Casanova-Morales et al. 2018).

Probablyfor many these questions are meaningless and many will wonder why invest time and resources in this?What's it for? Scientific interest departs from curiosity, and in my case, the curiosity to be able to develop and understand tools that allow to control a world as small as that of those proteins is a challenge entertaining enough to dedicate all my energies in this work.

Nathalie Casanova-Morales
Faculty of Liberal Arts, Adolfo Ibáñez University