Catching the Tail on mRNA Key to Magnetic Particle Separation for Battling Covid-19

mRNA Extraction – Recently, mRNA has been in the news because pharmaceutical companies have developed mRNA vaccines against SARS-CoV-2

Overview of mRNA extraction

The “central dogma” states that DNA gets transcribed into mRNA which is then translated into a protein. The term mRNA stands for messenger ribonucleic acid as it is the messenger between the directions of DNA and the creation of proteins by the ribosome. Researchers and industry laboratories extract mRNA from cells to study processes occurring in the cell. mRNA only accounts for 5% of the RNA in the cell so it is important to have a technique which will specifically purify this type of RNA. RNA is also very sensitive to Rnase contamination, which is found all over your skin as an antimicrobial. To avoid contamination it is helpful to have an efficient and simple method for mRNA extraction. A common method for mRNA extraction is the use of magnetic beads.

Why do mRNA extraction?

In scientific research and industry there are several scenarios in which mRNA extraction is needed. Recently mRNA has been in the news because pharmaceutical companies have developed mRNA vaccines against SARS-CoV-2. The amount of mRNA in the cell provides crucial information about what information (genes) is being processed and at what amounts. This translates understanding what genes are being turned into which proteins to what process is occurring in the body that is causing this mRNA to be present. Understanding mRNA also provides insight into what splicing events are taking place. The timing and abundance of certain mRNA can also indicate temporal processes

Total RNA can be purified using organic extraction (phenol-chloroform), silicon based spin columns, or magnetic beads. After total RNA purification, mRNA requires more purification steps. Magnetic beads are a popular method for the specific mRNA extraction. The beads utilize the poly-A tail on mRNA which makes it unique from other RNA. This is especially helpful in separating it from rRNA which is much more abundant. This technique has a common protocol in many laboratories.

mRNA extraction conclusion

mRNA extraction is important to research and industry settings. In research mRNA offers important insight into what proteins are being translated or how much transcript is being produced by the cell. Clinically it has become vastly important with its role in the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Synthetic mRNA production requires a purification step to get the final mRNA product out of the solution in which it was transcribed. For this purpose scaling up will be important. Modern separators offer the ability to do scalable production without compromising speed and safety of the sample.

By Lluis M. Martínez, SEPMAG Chief Scientific Officer

About the Author: Founder of SEPMAG, Lluis holds a PhD in Magnetic Materials by the UAB. He has conducted research at German and Spanish academic institutions. Having worked in companies in Ireland, USA and Spain, he has more than 20 years of experience applying magnetic materials and sensors to industrial products and processes.


Lluis Martinez,