Luciana Bento

A cientista brasileira premiada por pesquisar doenças negligenciadas pela indústria farmacêutica | Ciência e Saúde

Rafaela Salgado Ferreira pesquisa tratamentos mais eficientes para a doença de Chagas e a Zika (Foto: Divulgação)Rafaela Salgado Ferreira pesquisa tratamentos mais eficientes para a doença de Chagas e a Zika (Foto: Divulgação)

Rafaela Salgado Ferreira pesquisa tratamentos mais eficientes para a doença de Chagas e a Zika (Foto: Divulgação)

A ciência pode mudar a realidade vivida pelas populações carentes. Esse é o lema da pesquisadora mineira Rafaela Salgado Ferreira: ela decidiu focar seu trabalho, que acaba de ser premiado internacionalmente, na busca de remédios para doenças que afetam áreas pobres do planeta – e que, por isso, geralmente não interessam à indústria farmacêutica.

Ferreira dirige o laboratório de modelização molecular e de concepção de medicamentos da Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais (UFMG), onde também dá aulas, e concentra suas pesquisas em tratamentos mais eficazes para a doença de Chagas.

No Brasil, segundo o Ministério da Saúde, há pelo menos 1 milhão de pessoas infectadas pela doença de Chagas – infecção transmitida por insetos barbeiros que tem entre os sintomas febres prolongadas, fraqueza intensa, inchaço no rosto e nas pernas e falta de ar e que pode causar inflamações no coração e acúmulo de água no pulmão.

Descoberta há mais de cem anos, ela integra a lista das “doenças tropicais negligenciadas” da Organização Mundial da Saúde (OMS), que inclui a dengue, esquistossomose, a hanseníase e outros males que matam mais de 500 mil pessoas por ano no mundo.

Para lidar com a constante falta de recursos para pesquisas no Brasil e evitar o alto custo do desenvolvimento de medicamentos por meio de vários testes em laboratório, Rafaela Salgado Ferreira faz experimentos no computador.

Na prática, ela faz simulações computadorizadas de moléculas que possam inibir uma proteína responsável pela ação do protozoário Trypanosoma Cruzi, o causador da doença de Chagas.

“Consigo dessa forma reduzir o número de experimentos, o que torna (a pesquisa) muito mais barata”, explica a pesquisadora.

As mesmas técnicas computacionais são utilizadas para encontrar substâncias que possam agir no vírus Zika e impedir sua replicação, mas suas pesquisas sobre a doença de Chagas estão bem mais avançadas.

Premiação destaca mulheres promissoras na ciência; na foto, brasileira é a segunda da esquerda para a direita (Foto: Divulgação)Premiação destaca mulheres promissoras na ciência; na foto, brasileira é a segunda da esquerda para a direita (Foto: Divulgação)

Premiação destaca mulheres promissoras na ciência; na foto, brasileira é a segunda da esquerda para a direita (Foto: Divulgação)

Premiação a jovens cientistas

A mineira de 35 anos recebeu neste mês em Paris o prêmio “Rising Talents” (“talentos promissores”, em tradução livre) concedido pela Fundação L’Oréal em parceria com a Unesco, agência da ONU para a educação, ciência e cultura.

A premiação recompensa as 15 melhores jovens cientistas do mundo, selecionadas entre as 250 vencedoras das edições nacionais do programa “Para Mulheres na Ciência” da Fundação L’Oréal, que já haviam sido escolhidas entre cerca de 10 mil candidatas.

O “Rising Talents” oferece 15 mil euros (cerca de R$ 60 mil) às cientistas premiadas para pesquisas.

A equipe dirigida por Ferreira, de 13 pesquisadores, já encontrou dois compostos, entre 400 substâncias analisadas, que podem inibir a proteína do Trypanosoma Cruzi e, dessa forma, prejudicar a ação do protozoário.

Os remédios existentes contra a doença de Chagas, como o benznidazol, foram desenvolvidos nos anos 70 e têm eficácia limitada, além de efeitos colaterais graves, diz ela.

“Todos deveriam ter direito a receber tratamento para qualquer doença. É importante termos tratamentos para doenças negligenciadas que funcionem melhor e sejam mais seguros”, diz Ferreira. “A indústria farmacêutica tem a estratégia de desenvolver tratamentos para populações mais ricas e que devem ser tomados a longo prazo.”

Ela cita o exemplo de tipos raros de câncer para os quais já existem tratamentos eficazes, embora ocorram em menor número no mundo do que a doença de Chagas.

Ferreira ressalta que é difícil contabilizar o número de casos porque há uma fase indeterminada na qual o paciente não apresenta sintomas, o que dificulta o diagnóstico.

A paixão da mineira pela Ciência começou na adolescência, e ganhou impulso com o programa de vocação científica da Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz), que a levou a obter graduação em Farmácia na UFMG.

Ferreira é a única pessoa de sua família a conquistar um diploma de doutorado, de Química Biológica, obtido na Universidade da Califórnia, nos Estados Unidos.

Ela também fez um pós-doutorado na Universidade de São Paulo (USP).

Segundo a pesquisadora, o prêmio conquistado em Paris poderá favorecer suas pesquisas, pois dará mais visibilidade ao seu trabalho, e favorecer a atração de investimentos.

“A disputa por recursos para pesquisa é bem intensa”, diz. “É cada vez mais difícil obter financiamentos no Brasil. E mesmo quando eles são concedidos, muitas vezes o dinheiro não chega.”

Ferreira afirma ainda que o Brasil, com quase 50% de cientistas mulheres, está acima da média global (de cerca de 30%) nessa área.

“Mas nos cargos de mais alto escalão (na ciência) ainda há poucas mulheres”, ressalta.

Fonte G1

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Luciana Bento

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