mRNA and vaccines

Messenger RNA is playing a crucial part in the vaccination process

We have all heard about DNA, that two stranded double helix that makes us who we are, coding for our traits. But have you heard about RNA?

What is RNA?

Unlike DNA, RNA (ribonucleic acid) is a single strand of nucleotides and helps with protein synthesis as well as metabolic processes our body carries out. Where DNA has the nucleotides ACTG, RNA has ACUG with Thymine being replaced by Uracil.

Another difference between DNA and RNA is that while DNA can only move around the inside of a cell, RNA has the ability to move between cells. It is this movement that makes RNA a key component in vaccinations.

How mRNA works in the vaccination process

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Vaccinations are designed to help our bodies build immunity against pathogens by exposing them to small amounts of the virus or in recent years the blueprint of the virus. On a molecular level mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccines code for a virus showing the body what to expect.

As Medlineplus writes:

‘mRNA vaccines work by introducing a piece of mRNA that corresponds to a viral protein, usually a small piece of a protein found on the virus’s outer membrane. (Individuals who get an mRNA vaccine are not exposed to the virus, nor can they become infected by the vaccine.) Using this mRNA blueprint, cells produce the viral protein. As part of a normal immune response, the immune system recognizes that the protein is foreign and produces specialized proteins called antibodies’

Full article https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/therapy/mrnavaccines/

In layman’s terms, imagine there is a bar (our body) with a bouncer (immune system) protecting the entrance. A security team (vaccine) comes up to the bouncer and gives them a picture of someone they shouldn’t let in (the virus). The bouncer now knows what the suspect looks like and can now prevent them from getting in.

Images courtesy of Unsplash