For the last three years, the world has been gripped by the coronavirus pandemic. Fear and panic of the disease had been ever-present in the entirety of the world’s population until the arrival of the vaccine against the very same. Many different kinds of vaccines appeared in the market, manufactured by different pharmaceutical corporations, including the mRNA vaccine. However, during this time a wealth of human knowledge and misconceptions floated to the surface, causing people to divide into 2 groups: the ones who support vaccinating, aka. the vaxxers, and the ones who are against it, aka. the anti-vaxxers. Many believed that vaccinating can offer them the only available protection, while the others considered the research on them to be insufficient and thus considered them an expedient that could only worsen the situation. People had come to their own conclusions about how certain vaccinations work and so, much disinformation had spread about the mechanisms the vaccines utilize. Let us take a look at what science has to say about the way the vaccine works.

 

What is an mRNA vaccine?

Firstly, a vaccine is defined as a biological preparation which helps the body fight foreign substances, such as bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. They contain an inactivated or weakened virus which cannot cause illness, but instead encourages an immune response so that the body may be ready to fight and protect itself in the event it comes into contact with the virus. However, scientists had developed a new kind of vaccine that doesn’t contain inactivated pathogens, but instead a molecule of mRNA. mRNA (messenger RNA) is a type of RNA molecule that is key in the production of proteins, as in the process of transcription it uses the information stored in the genes to synthesize proteins, among which are the antibodies used for defense from pathogens.

The mRNA molecule that is used in vaccines comes from mRNA grown in vitro (outside its usual environment) where its possible to construct mRNA molecules that are capable of activating an immune response to a specific pathogen. After its entry into the organism, the process of translation begins immediately in which a protein is formed, which is in this case an antibody for a specific pathogen. There is a problem in which the cell, after forming the proteins, begins to dissolve the mRNA molecule, but that is remedied by using lipide nanoparticles which ease the entry of the molecule and its release into the cell. It is important to note that as the individuals who are vaccinated using the mRNA vaccine are not exposed to the virus, they cannot be infected through the vaccine and the mRNA molecule does not enter into the cell nucleus or alter its DNA!

 

Advantages over pre-existing vaccines

Even though many types of vaccines have shown high efficacy, mRNA vaccinations promise a safe, controlled and effective method of fighting against various pathogens. Their use doesn’t cause changes in the cells, as do vaccines that utilize DNA. They’re easy to produce in bioreactors where security protocols in the production process are much stricter than with live vaccines because of the absence of virulent agents.

 

Applications of mRNA vaccines

The mRNA vaccine found a wide application in treating many diseases and developing prophylactic immunity. The vaccine can also be used in cancer treatment therapy and in prevention of infections of such viruses as SARS-CoV-2, rabies, influenza, Zika virus, cytomegalovirus and respiratory syncytial virus.

The speed with which mRNA-based vaccines have been developed, produced in large quantities and clinically utilized to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, stands as proof that vaccines based on RNA molecules offer a promising new approach to disease immunization.

 

 

Literature sources

1. Verbeke R, Lentacker I, De Smedt SC, Dewitte H. The dawn of mRNA vaccines: The COVID-19 case. J Control Release, 2021, 10, 511-520.

2. Jain S, Venkataraman A, Wechsler ME, Peppas NA. Messenger RNA-based vaccines: Past, present, and future directions in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Adv Drug Deliv Rev, 2021, 179, 114000.

3. Kowalzik F, Schreiner D, Jensen C, Teschner D, Gehring S, Zepp F. mRNA-Based Vaccines. Vaccines 2021, 9, 390.

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