by Chloe Nordquist
that the human genome has been opened up for inserting
synthetic mRNA modeled by computer programs, Transhuman
scientists are expanding their reach to target other
diseases in other parts of the human body.
Direct DNA editing is already in the works as well.
COVID-19 proved that mRNA vaccines can work. Now, researchers are
applying the technology to other diseases.
More than half of Americans are fully vaccinated against
Many of them received an
mRNA vaccine that was developed by
Pfizer or Moderna.
"mRNA is a blueprint
to tell your cells what protein to make," Dr. Scott Joy, an
internal medicine specialist and Chief Medical Officer for HCA
Healthcare Physician Services group, said.
"It’s either a protein that builds the cells, it’s a protein
that fights an infection, or it’s a protein that has some other
role in your body," he added.
are new, research on mRNA and mRNA-based vaccines has been happening
"It’s interesting to
look at the data from the late 90s from when the mRNA vaccines
were being studied.
The issue was not
behind the basic science of why an mRNA vaccine would be
effective, it was really how do you create a vehicle to get it
into the cell to allow it to do what it needs to do.
And that's what the
last 20 years have really been about," Dr. Joy said.
He said this technology
can be applied to more than just COVID.
hundreds of employees, both in the U.S. and in Europe, to
working on mRNA as one of the foundations for new vaccines," Dr.
Michael Greenberg, the vice president and medical head of Sanofi
Pasteur North America, said.
The company has been
developing vaccines for decades.
"mRNA vaccines have
been some of the ones that have gotten a lot of attention the
past couple years because of their success that have been really
shown during the COVID-19 pandemic," Dr. Greenberg said.
Their efforts with mRNA
started before the pandemic.
"We are the first
ever to create, to start a clinical trial for seasonal flu
vaccine using mRNA and so far the results are very promising,"
The mRNA vaccines can be
used to prevent illness in multiple ways.
"The idea was, can we
develop a vaccine which is...not just focusing on one pathogen,"
Dr. Gunjan Arora, a research scientist at the Yale School of
Gunjan Arora is
part of a team working on an mRNA vaccine for Lyme disease - a
tick-borne illness caused by a specific bacteria.
"The idea is if he
can develop a technology where we can deliver multiple candidate
antigens, can we stop ticks from feeding and eventually that
would block the Lyme disease in humans," he said.
Essentially, the vaccine
would target antigens found in tick saliva, preventing it from
feeding on people and reducing transmission.
Researchers say the advancement of mRNA COVID vaccines shows a lot
of potential for mRNA use.
"Acceptability of any
new technology requires a breakthrough, a validation process.
Which I think COVID-19 has done in this case," Arora said.
"With the success of these out of the gate, we're pretty excited
about future opportunities as well," Joy said.