mRNA Vaccines vs Traditional Vaccines

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Moderna Therapeutics, a biotechnology company responsible for developing the Messenger RNA Vaccine, has been testing the vaccine lately and says that DNA and mRNA vaccines are advantaged over traditional vaccines because of their modularity, and standardization.

Today we’re going to look at the differences between a traditional vaccine and the mRNA vaccine from Moderna Therapeutics.

The mNRA – Messenger Ribonucleic Acid Vaccine – is an entirely new vaccine that was developed and approved for Coronavirus.  Vaccines work to help our immune system by training our bodies to recognize and respond to the proteins produced by disease-causing organisms, such as a virus or bacteria.

Traditional vaccines consist of “inactivated doses” of the whole disease-causing organism.  These are introduced into the body to trigger the immune system into responding to the virus.  The mRNA vaccine is different in that it tricks the body into producing some of the viral proteins itself. The head of Microbiology at Paul-Ehrlich-Institute and the Federal Institute for Vaccines and Biomedicines in Langen, Germany, Prof. Bekeredjian-Ding said, “An mRNA is basically like a pre-form of a protein and its (sequence encodes) what the protein is basically made of later on”.

She continues, “All kinds of innate immune cells are being activated by the mRNA. This primes the immune system to get prepared for an endangering pathogen and thus the type of immune response that is triggered is very strong.” This theorizes that these types of vaccines could be more potent and straightforward to produce than traditional vaccines.  Since our bodies have two parts to their immune systems – innate and acquired, the mRNA vaccines look to trigger the innate system, whereas traditional vaccines only work with the acquired system.  This is an entirely new way of looking at vaccines.

Some more to the point differences are things like production time – traditional vaccines taking months to develop whereas RNA vaccines can be synthesized in only a week. The biosafety issues are strikingly different, with traditional vaccines requiring large quantities of a virus to produce a vaccine which has its own hazards.  RNA Vaccines only need a small quantity of the virus for gene sequencing and testing, and the theorized production for RNA vaccines are to be scaled and standardized

While all of this sounds promising and positive, it is important to know that this is new research there is still a lot of unknowns. The only way we can learn more about this new vaccine process is by testing in humans. Things we are still questioning about these vaccines include whether the proteins selected for the vaccine are right to prevent a coronavirus infection in the body, how targeted the immune response is to the virus, how long will immunity to the virus last, and if there are any side effects such as inflammatory or, in the worst case, aggravating disease.

This is a developing story that we will be covering here on the ABN Blog so be sure to check back often.

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