German scientist believes he's found solution to blood clots linked to AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines

AstraZeneca vaccine.
(Image credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Rolf Marschalek, a professor at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, claims he's identified the cause of rare blood clots linked to the COVID-19 vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson and the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. Subsequently, he also believes he's found a way for the producers to modify their shots so the clots no longer occur, the Financial Times reports.

Marschalek said his research zeroed in on the vaccines' adenovirus vectors, which "send the spike protein into the cell nucleus rather than the cytosol fluid inside the cell where the virus normally produces proteins." (The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, on the other hand, don't enter the nucleus.) The theory is that once the spike protein enters the nucleus, some parts splice and create mutant versions, FT reports. Hypothetically, those mutant proteins are then "secreted by cells into the body" where they may trigger potentially fatal blood clots.

The research, Marschalek argues, suggests the vaccine developers could "modify the sequence of the spike protein" so that it doesn't split apart. He said Johnson & Johnson has already contacted his lab "to ask for guidance," though other scientists are urging patience. "This is still a hypothesis that needs to be proven by experimental data," Johannes Oldenburg, a professor at the university of Bonn in Germany, told FT. Read more at the Financial Times.

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Tim O'Donnell

Tim is a staff writer at The Week and has contributed to Bedford and Bowery and The New York Transatlantic. He is a graduate of Occidental College and NYU's journalism school. Tim enjoys writing about baseball, Europe, and extinct megafauna. He lives in New York City.