Vaccines that use messenger RNA began to be researched in the middle of the last decade as a more efficient way to produce immunizers. But it was with the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which caused the covid-19 pandemic, that the technique gained momentum and prominence for producing, until now, immunizers with the highest immunological response among all candidate vaccines.
Today, four types are under development or are in the process of being approved:
vaccines that use the entire disease virus, weakened or killed;
vaccines in which a harmless virus (called a viral vector) carries a protein from the pathogen to elicit an immune response from humans;
vaccines that use fragments of the disease virus protein;
gene vaccines that replicate, in a synthetic RNA sequence, 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 those that use the dead virus) cannot keep up with the evolution and mutation of some diseases. so-called gene vaccines require less time to manufacture and, because they use the genetic code of the pathogen, they provoke a greater immune response (their only big drawback: the gene vaccine needs to be kept 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 DNA (where our genes are) determines. 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 that they want to fight – this is the antigen, which will migrate to the cell membrane and there, it will be recognized by the immune system, triggering a response against disease you want to fight.