Covid vaccines using mRNA are approved
The revolutionary technology is used in both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, developed in record time!
We are almost at the end of 2020 and despite the rough year, we have a lot to commemorate. Vaccines might take up to 10 years to be researched, tested, and manufactured, but due to the emergency of the Covid-19 pandemic, scientists have been able to develop safe Covid-19 vaccines in less than 10 months. Among them, the highlights are the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, approved by the FDA and other regulatory agencies around the world.
These two vaccines use a new type of technology called mRNA to protect us against infectious diseases such as Covid-19. To trigger an immune response, many vaccines (such as the Chinese ones) put a weakened or inactivated virus into our bodies. Not mRNA vaccines.
Instead, they teach our cells how to make a protein—or even just a piece of a protein—that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response, which produces antibodies, is what protects us from getting infected if the real virus enters our bodies.
How it works
COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give instructions for our cells to make a harmless piece of what is called the “spike protein.” The spike protein is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19.
COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are given in the upper arm muscle. Once the instructions (mRNA) are inside the muscle cells, the cells use them to make the protein piece. After the protein piece is made, the cell breaks down the instructions and gets rid of them.
Next, the cell displays the protein piece on its surface. Our immune systems recognize that the protein doesn’t belong there and begin building an immune response and making antibodies, like what happens in natural infection against COVID-19.
At the end of the process, our bodies have learned how to protect against future infection. The benefit of mRNA vaccines, like all vaccines, is those vaccinated gain this protection without ever having to risk the serious consequences of getting sick with COVID-19.
The video below shows a cool animation of how mRNA vaccines work.
Contrary to fake news circulating on the Internet, mRNA does not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept. The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions.
Why should you care?
mRNA technology, together with last month's solution for the protein folding challenge, will accelerate the cure of hundreds of diseases in the next years and decades. Hundreds of thousands of new job opportunities for students interested in biotechnology will open and the fields of computer science, artificial intelligence, and biology will be much more integrated and intertwined. Many new biotech startups will pop-up around the world and defy the giant pharmaceutical companies.
If you are interested in dedicating your life to cure the world's most lethal diseases, now is the time!