- Tim Smedley
Until recently, most people had not even heard of messenger RNA or “messenger RNA” vaccines, but now scientists believe that may be the answer to a myriad of health problems.
About a year ago, Anna Blakeney worked in a relatively obscure scientific field in a laboratory in London. And only a few people outside his scientific circles have heard of the messenger RNA or “messenger RNA” vaccines, known briefly as mRNA, because these vaccines did not exist at the time.
The number of participants during her speech at an annual conference on this issue in 2019 was estimated in the tens, not the hundreds. Now there is a huge demand for Blakeney, who is an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia in Canada, and a scientific interviewer who has 253,000 followers and 3.7 million likes of the “Tik Tok” application .
Blakeney notes that she was fortunate to have been in the right place at the right time to ride a wave of scientific progress that only happens once in a generation, and she even has this new era the “Ms. RNA Called Renaissance “.
Due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, many people have now heard – and even received – one of the mRNA vaccines – such as Pfizer-Biontech and Moderna. But even when Blakeney began her PhD at Imperial College London in 2016, “many people were skeptical that it could ever succeed”. Now, “the whole field of messenger RNA is witnessing a huge boom, and it’s completely game-changing in the medical field,” she says.
It is such a game changer that it raises some very important and exciting questions: Can mRNA vaccines provide a cure for cancers, HIV and tropical diseases, and even give us super-immunity?
Messenger RNA, or messenger RNA, is a molecule that carries the genetic code of DNA to the protein-making machinery of the cell. Without the messenger RNA, your genetic code cannot be used, proteins will not be made and your body will not function in the first place. If DNA can be compared to a bank card, mRNA is the reader of that card.
Once inside our cells, the virus releases its own messenger RNA, which deceives our hijacked cells into releasing copies of the virus – in the form of viral proteins – that threaten our immune system. Conventional vaccines work by injecting inactivated viral proteins called antigens, which stimulate the body’s immune system to recognize the virus when it reappears.
But the genius of mRNA vaccines is that it is not necessary to inject the antigen itself. Instead, these vaccines use the genetic sequence or “code” of the antigen translated into mRNA. It is a ghost of the right thing, which deceives the body to create many real antibodies. Then the synthetic mRNA itself disappears, and is broken down by the body’s natural defenses, including the enzymes that break it down and leaving only the antibodies.
Therefore, it is safer to manufacture mRNA vaccines faster and cheaper than conventional vaccines. There will therefore be no need for large biosafety laboratories in which deadly viruses grow in millions of chicken eggs.
Instead, only one laboratory can track antigen proteins and email them around the world. Using this information, the lab can “make a million doses of mRNA in one 100 ml test tube,” says Blakeney.
We have now seen how this process happens in real time. On January 10, 2020, Zhang Yongzhen, a professor of zoonoses at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Beijing, identified the genome sequence of the coronavirus and published it the next day. On March 11, the World Health Organization announced that the Corona virus had become a global pandemic. On March 16, using Zhang’s announced genome sequence, the first mRNA vaccine began clinical trials.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine as a vaccine to combat the Corona virus on December 11, 2020, becoming the first messenger RNA vaccine approved to treat humans, and the first vaccine with a 95 percent efficacy in the prevention of corona virus in clinical trials.
This was soon followed, on December 18, by the approval of Moderna’s vaccine, which is also one of the messenger RNA vaccines. And the “fastest vaccine ever” in terms of being approved as a treatment was the pumpkin vaccine, which was approved after four years of experiments, but the Moderna and Pfizer-Biontech vaccines only took 11 months to adopt!
The theory that led to the production of mRNA vaccines was first developed by two scientists, Katalin Carrico and Drew Weisman of the University of Pennsylvania, who recently won the 2021 Lasker Prize, the United States’ highest award in biomedical research, has been awarded.
Even in 2019, it was thought that mRNA vaccines would not be available for use for at least five years. But the outbreak of the Corona epidemic drove this medical field and accelerated the pace of work in it by half a decade.
“Not many people in the world of mRNA therapies would think that these vaccines would have initial efficacy rates of 95 percent in this emergency scenario,” admits Catherine Whitehead, an assistant professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at Carnegie Mellon University and A Weizmann and Carrico collaborator. “.
But now the possibilities are seemingly endless. “Now it’s like saying, OK, we were successful with a viral glycoprotein, so what other vaccines can we make with mRNA? And what can we do next?”
At the University of Rochester, Dragone Vu, assistant professor in the Department of Biology, received rapid funding for his laboratory from the National Science Foundation to conduct research on mRNA proteins. Fu says that if an mRNA 1.0 vaccine is used to treat the coronavirus, then an mRNA 2.0 vaccine will address two new classes of diseases.
“One of them is pathogens, such as SARS, but this technology can be applied to other external invaders such as HIV. Before the outbreak of the Corona virus, companies were already developing mRNA vaccines against HIV.”
Fu cited Zika viruses, herpes and malaria parasites as pathogens.
“The other category is autoimmune diseases,” he says. “It’s intriguing because it goes beyond the strict definition of a vaccine.”
Fu points out that the future may see the emergence of mRNA “therapies” to reduce inflammation, for example. “In theory, it opens up a lot of possibilities,” he says.
It’s important to hear the opinion of Zhou Dong, an assistant professor of pharmacology at Ohio State University who specializes in studying the small fat globules needed to house messenger RNA and deliver it safely to cells. without being immediately damaged by the body. These globules of fat are described as the “unsung hero” – without the mastery and definitive approval of the lipid delivery process for mRNA in 2018, it would have been impossible to produce mRNA vaccines to fight the Corona virus in 2020.