Sat. May 18th, 2024

The mRNA technology behind vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna has gained global recognition during the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, two scientists, Katalin Kariko of Hungary and Drew Weissman of the United States, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for their contributions to the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. Researchers have been studying the use of messenger RNA (mRNA) for vaccinations and treating various diseases, such as AIDS and cancer, for decades.

So how does this technology work? Messenger RNA carries specific instructions from DNA to cells in the body. In the case of Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, lab-generated mRNA instructs human cells to produce antigens, which are proteins similar to those found in the COVID-19 virus. Through these antigens, the immune system learns to recognize and fight the virus, providing protection if the person is exposed to it. Once the cells produce the necessary proteins, the mRNA instructions are broken down and eliminated from the body.

This direct communication with cells is a revolutionary approach compared to traditional vaccines, which introduce neutralized viruses or antigens into the body to trigger an immune response.

The use of mRNA in medicine dates back to the late 1970s when scientists first used it to produce proteins in test-tube cells. A decade later, they achieved similar results in mice. However, synthetic mRNA faced immune resistance in live animals, and its fragile nature made delivery challenging. In 2005, Kariko and Weissman published a groundbreaking study demonstrating the safe delivery of mRNA using a lipid envelope. This discovery sparked interest in mRNA therapies within the pharmaceutical community, leading to the emergence of startups focused on mRNA treatments worldwide.

Beyond COVID-19, scientists have been exploring mRNA vaccines for diseases like seasonal flu, rabies, Zika, and even vaccine-resistant illnesses such as malaria and AIDS. Additionally, personalized treatments using mRNA are being tested on cancer patients. By using samples of tumor proteins to create customized mRNA, the immune system can be directed to target specific cancer cells.

“The mRNA platform is versatile,” said biochemist Norbert Pardi of the University of Pennsylvania. “Any protein can be encoded as mRNA, so there are many potential applications.”

It’s important to note that this article is published from a syndicated feed and hasn’t been edited by NDTV staff, except for the headline.

By admin