Vaccines using messenger RNA have been explored in the mid-last decade as a more efficient way to produce immunizers. But it was with the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that triggered the covid-19 pandemic that the technique gained momentum and prominence to produce immunizers to date with the highest immunological response of any vaccine candidate.
Today, four types are under development or are currently being approved:
vaccines that use, attenuate or kill the whole disease virus;
vaccines in which a harmless virus (called a viral vector) carries a protein of the pathogen to elicit an immune response in humans;
vaccines using fragments of the disease virus protein;
gene vaccines that, in a synthetic RNA sequence, replicate the genetic information of the coronavirus – and no, they cannot change your DNA.
The method of making mRNA-based immunizers has at least two major advantages: traditional vaccines (such as vaccines that use the dead virus) cannot keep up with the evolution and mutation of some diseases. so-called gene vaccines take less time to produce and, because they use the genetic code of the pathogen, they cause a greater immune response (their only major drawback: the gene vaccine must be stored at -70 ° C).
To understand how they work, you need to know what RNA is. Acronym in English for ribonucleic acid, it is the molecule that “does” what determines DNA (where our genes are). There are three types of RNA: the messenger, the carrier, and the ribosome. Only the first (the messenger) matters here: he is the one used in gene vaccines.
The so-called mRNA is responsible for encoding the proteins, determined by the DNA, that the cell needs. Genetic vaccines use a virus mRNA strand; when the person is vaccinated, their cells absorb this mRNA and start producing the virus protein they want to fight – this is the antigen that will migrate to the cell membrane and be recognized there by the immune system, triggering a response against disease you want combat.