The covid 19 pandemic opened up new possibilities to test new vaccine inventions and production technologies. Two notable vaccines, Moderna and Pfizer, unlocked the potential of the mRNA technology as they demonstrated a whopping 95% efficacy in several studies. Thanks to mRNA technology, the two vaccines gave people a string of hope for the first time since the pandemic happened.
Although the mRNA technology seems new to many people, it has existed for years and has proven effective against SARS-CoV-2 and other infectious diseases. Vaccines produced through mRNA technology work by instructing the body cells to create proteins that trigger an immune response to develop antibodies that protect against future infections.
In mRNA vaccine history, countless research and discoveries have flourished, leading to the booming potential of mRNA technology. The best thing about the technology is that it makes it possible to produce vaccines faster using the genetic sequence of the pathogen. Let’s look at some of the numerous applications of mRNA vaccine technology.
We cannot talk about mRNA technology without mentioning a thing about Gene therapy. The therapy is an approach to treating diseased cells, but conventional gene therapy has some risks. According to a study by associate professors from the University of Tokyo, using mRNA for gene therapy effectively triggered tissue regeneration, not olfactory nerve fibers, and functional recovery in animals suffering from olfactory disorders. This famous study opened up the way for using mRNA-based therapy for different neurological diseases.
Cure for Autoimmune Diseases
German researchers used mRNA technology to slow down disease activity in Mice with Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis (EAE). The disease is similar to multiple sclerosis, which affects humans. The team of scientists produced an mRNA vaccine that boosts immune cell tolerance against the disease and minimizes damage without interfering with the normal immune system functioning. Doctors often prescribe immunosuppressive drugs to control the symptoms, but they have side effects. However, the vaccine is effective.
Colorectal Cancer Treatment
Surgery is the conventional treatment for colorectal cancer, but the cancer cells may remain active after removing the tumor since the remaining cells shed DNA into the bloodstream. Although studies on whether mRNA technology can be used to prevent colorectal cancer are still underway, there is a lot of hope.
In a specialized lab, tissue from the tumor is studied for genetic mutations that fuel the cancer’s growth. When the researcher identifies the mutations, they prioritize them based on the most common to the least common, then create an mRNA vaccine based on the ranking.
The mRNA vaccine informs the cells to produce proteins based on the tumor’s genetic mutations. Then the immune system searches the body for other cells with mutated proteins clearing out any circulating tumor cells.
Treatment for Lyme disease
Powassan virus is a tick-borne virus with no known prevention or treatment. A new mRNA vaccine against the virus produces subviral fragments that elicit protection by building an immune response against the virus. The vaccine fared well in preclinical studies involving guinea pigs and was featured in science translational medicine in November 2021. However, there are currently no Lyme disease vaccines in the US.
Treatment of Cardiovascular Infections
According to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, there are hopes regarding using mRNA technology in the treatment of cardiac fibrosis in a mouse model. The better news is that AstraZeneca produced positive results from research involving injecting mRNA into a patient’s heart being operated on for coronary artery bypass.
More studies by Moderna have shown that intramyocardial injection of mRNA encoding human vascular endothelial growth factor-A resulted in the expansion of endogenous heart progenitors in myocardial infarction in a mouse model.
According to the CDC, flu vaccines’ effectiveness is around 40-60%. Typically, drug companies anticipate flu strains likely to predominate some months before every flu season. They use mammalian cells to grow the virus strains, then inactivate the virus and process them into vaccines.
However, mRNA technology’s efficiency and flexibility can significantly improve the process. For instance, Pfizer says it can make an RNA vaccine eight days after learning about the flu virus, and therefore mRNA vaccines can enhance the efficiency of making flu vaccines.
Researchers have tried to develop HIV vaccines for decades now, but no licensed HIV vaccines exist. Studies on both prophylactic and therapeutic HIV vaccines are underway- the former can potentially stop infection while the latter can slow its progression.
The good news is that Moderna has several prophylactic HIV vaccine candidates in preclinical development and studies. mRNA technology could bring more development in HIV treatment and prevention if the vaccines prove effective.
Many valuable discoveries have led to the booming field of mRNA technology, which is still flourishing. Unlike traditional vaccines that take months to produce, mRNA vaccines are faster to create hence more potential.
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