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Saturday, January 23, 2021

How is the efficacy generated by messenger RNA vaccines against COVID-19

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A few days ago, 2020 ended which, in addition to leaving a new COVID-19 pandemic originated by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV 2, also demonstrated the most significant scientific advance of the year: vaccines to prevent and combat it.

And within the batch of vaccines against the new disease that are already applied in several countries of the world, which already counts 92 million infected and almost 2 million deaths, there is two innovative vaccines that have shown high efficacy and very good safety. The two basic requirements for developing a vaccine. They are the vaccines of the laboratories Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which use the new messenger RNA platform.

To date, the two vaccines against the new coronavirus that have shown the greatest efficacy and whose reports have been published in peer-reviewed scientific journals or have achieved approval from major medical regulatory agencies in the world, are based on this molecule, specifically in a subtype known as Messenger RNA that specifically aims to transmit the message of life contained in DNA and convert it into all the proteins that allow us to breathe, think, move, live. This molecule is so important that many scientists believe that life could have started with it on Earth, more than 3 billion years ago. And that today is one of the main weapons to get the planet out of the worst pandemic in recent years.

New genetic techniques in medicine enabled the development of these innovative COVID-19 vaccines (Shutterstock)

The messenger RNA technology used by both vaccines carries DNA instructions for the cells of the human body to generate certain protective proteins, generating a 95% efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 virus in seven days after the second vaccine dose and 28 days after the first. The vaccine, as specified by the companies, was generally well tolerated, Although in some cases it caused local fever and pain where it was injected, but without any serious reaction being detected.

According to the prestigious American doctor Eric Topol, Director of Medscape, the first two vaccines shown to be effective in inhibiting COVID-19 disease were both mRNA, achieving efficacy (and safety) of the 95% among 74,000 participants (half that received placebo) after intramuscular administration of two injections, 3 to 4 weeks apart.

With RNA vaccines, all that is needed is the antigen sequence”, explained David Weissman, the immunologist who co-invented the perfected technique in the mid-2000s and who paved the way for this technology.

MRNA vaccines could prepare the ground to use that platform for both known and emerging pathogens, being able to completely change the vaccination panorama. Second-generation mRNA vaccines are being tested that would protect with a single prick, and having suffered three serious outbreaks of coronavirus disease in the past twenty years suggests a universal vaccine against coronavirus using that platform. The flu, with its annual mutations, could also be a good candidate for an mRNA vaccine that could be produced quickly and on demand. “


How does it work

All vaccines have the same goal: train the immune system to recognize the coronavirus and thus raise its defenses in a preventive way, in order to neutralize the real virus if contagion occurs.

The conventional vaccines can be made from inactive viruses (like polio or the flu), attenuated (measles, yellow fever), or simply proteins called antigens (hepatitis B). But with that of Pfizer and his german partner BioNTech, as well as that of the American Modern, Strands of genetic instructions called messenger RNA, that is, the molecule that tells our cells what to do, are injected into the body. Each cell is a mini-factory of proteins, according to the genetic instructions contained in the DNA of its nucleus.

The messenger RNA of the vaccine It is manufactured in the laboratory. Through the vaccine inserts itself into the body and takes control of this machinery to make specific coronavirus proteins or antigens: its “spicules”, those characteristic tips that are on its surface and allow it to adhere to human cells to penetrate them.


These proteins, harmless in themselves, will be released by our cells after receiving the vaccine instructions, and the immune system in response will produce antibodies. These antibodies will remain on guard for a long time – as expected – with the power to recognize and neutralize the coronavirus in case it infects us.

“A new stage of vaccine development began. The world is heading for messenger RNA technology vaccines. All laboratories in the world that manufacture them are going to have to consider using this type of technology. When we understand the precision of what is being generated, there will be no going back ”, indicated in an exclusive interview with Infobae the geneticist doctor Jorge Dotto (MN 107.411), one of the benchmarks in genetics worldwide.

Unpublished technique

This is how a messenger RNA vaccine works

For decades, scientists have dreamed of the seemingly endless possibilities of custom messenger RNA, or mRNA. Researchers understood its role as a cookbook for the body’s trillions of cells, but their efforts to expand the menu have come to a halt. The concept: By making fine adjustments to synthetic mRNA and injecting it into people, any cell in the body could be transformed into a drug factory on demand.

“Is a totally revolutionary technology. With this sequence that it receives at the artificial level, we give the immune system the instruction to generate the protein. Is about a level of precision we’ve never seen before. Before the arrival of these vaccines, genetics was understood as something very distant, invisible and of course, incomprehensible. Today people understand what it is about. Genetics is a way to understand mechanisms and provide solutions. It is no longer part of a distant field and science fiction, “warned the prestigious geneticist.

But turning scientific promise into medical reality has been more difficult than many expected. Although it is relatively easy and quick to produce compared to making traditional vaccines, no vaccine or mRNA drug has so far obtained approval.

Name: Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna SARS-CoV-2 mRNA Vaccines

Approved for: Emergency authorization for people over 16 years of age for vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 infection

Type: MRNA in lipid nanoparticles

Molecular targets: Peak Viral Glycoprotein (S)

Cellular targets: The vaccine induces the production of antibodies by the B cells against the peak protein of the virus. T cells are also generated, particularly CD4 + and CD8 + against the SARS-CoV-2 peak protein.

Effects on objectives: Antibodies bind to target sites on the surface glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2 and neutralize or inactivate the virus for destruction and subsequent elimination by the immune system.

Developed by: BioNTech / Pfizer and Moderna / NIH VRC


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