The term “mRNA vaccine” is being tossed around a lot these days because many vaccines against COVID (For eg. Pfizer) have been made based on the recently discovered RNA technology. Messenger RNA vaccines, also called mRNA vaccines, are some of the first COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the United States.
But why was this technology used to create vaccines against COVID-19?
Why didn’t scientists opt for the conventional method instead?
To know about mRNA vaccines, let us first understand what mRNA is. A messenger RNA is a single-stranded RNA molecule that is made from our DNA in the nucleus. This RNA molecule migrates outside the cell and then converts into functional proteins required for the functioning of our body. We all know that vaccines are modified formulations of the particular pathogen to strengthen our immune systems.
In conventional vaccines, either of the following formulations is introduced in the human body.
• Live weakened microorganisms
• Inactivated/Killed microorganisms
• Inactivated pathogen toxin
• A subunit of the protein that is secreted by the microorganism
Messenger RNA vaccines are a new generation of vaccines that uses artificially synthesized messenger RNAs that when inserted into our bodies convert into a functional protein. This protein, called an antigen, produces an immune response that further prepares our bodies to fight the real infection. In the case of COVID-19, the mRNA used codes for the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The spike protein is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. This way, the contents of the vaccine don’t have to interact with our DNA. mRNA vaccines are easier to design, convenient to use, and also decrease the chances of someone catching the disease after the vaccine. However, they tend to have storage problems because RNA is active at a very low temperature (around -70 degrees Celsius).
Moreover, the delivery of mRNA might be challenging in the absence of precision.
Covid-19 vaccines come in various formulations ranging from inactivated whole viruses to mRNA strands. With that said, a gentle reminder to get vaccinated and end the COVID-19 pandemic for good!