Malleable mRNA

Messenger RNA plays a vital role in the biological process of protein synthesis. Through two main steps — transcription and translation — the single-stranded molecule carries transcribed genetic information from DNA to ribosomes, which read the mRNA and make the proteins. After understanding and observing this natural process, researchers began to develop methods and technology that would create mRNA sequences. Cells recognize these synthesized mRNA as if they are produced by our bodies, and the normal process of protein synthesis would then occur. This method allows scientists to produce one specific protein that could give the human body the ability to build immunity against or prevent a disease.

Ribosome mRNA translation en
The translation of mRNA in the ribosome
Image from Wikimedia Commons

This exact method contributed to the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. The mRNA is produced to specifically carry the instructions for a protein found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19 and is coated in a lipid nanoparticle that helps guide it through the body. Once injected into the upper arm muscle, the mRNA travels to the immune cells where the ribosomes make the protein. The body’s immune system notices this protein and realizes that it does not belong, prompting it to make antibodies for the virus prior to being infected. This ultimately conditions our bodies to protect itself from future possible infections.

Although the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are the first to be licensed in our country, mRNA vaccines against diseases like rabies, ZIKA, and influenza are in the trial phase. The mRNA technology has also served a role in cancer research, where it is used to trigger the immune systems or encode immune signaling molecules to attack specific cancer cells.

Furthemore, the advancement of this method and technology has posed a question: “Can mRNA technology be used to treat chronic diseases?” While this may be entirely possible, the path to achieving this is not simple and there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration. In order to create an mRNA drug, both the structure of the mRNA and the lipid nanoparticle surrounding it have to be adapted to treat a specific disease. For example, in order to treat ornithine transcarbamylase (OTC) deficiency, where a missing enzyme results in an accumulation of ammonia in the blood, the mRNA drug must reach cells in the body’s liver. According to biomedical engineer James Dahlman, modifying the structure of the lipid particle in order to ensure the drug takes this path will “take a decade.” Also, whereas the vaccines have been proven to be effective after a couple doses, scientists have found that repeated doses of mRNA would be needed to supply the protein to treat a chronic disease. This could result in a buildup of lipid nanoparticles in the body or the body could have an inflammatory response to foreign RNA. Therefore, researchers have to design the mRNA to be as natural and biodegradable as possible to ensure the repeated doses are bearable. Even though there are many aspects that need further study and research in order for us to have an mRNA durg readily available, this possible drug to treat chronic diseases would be revolutionary. Using mRNA technology, the drug would be the first to directly go inside cells and manage protein production. The creation of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine has shown researchers that it is possible to mass produce billions of these mRNA strands and lipid nanoparticles. Therefore, while we may not see doctors prescribing it any time in the near future, this malleable mRNA drug could possibly serve as a threat to chronic diseases and can improve the health of people around the world. have been proven to be effective after a couple doses, scientists have found that repeated doses of mRNA would be needed to supply the protein to treat a chronic disease. This could result in a buildup of lipid nanoparticles in the body or the body could have an inflammatory response to foreign RNA. Therefore, researchers have to design the mRNA to be as natural and biodegradable as possible to ensure the repeated doses are bearable.

Even though there are many aspects that need further study and research in order for us to have an mRNA durg readily available, this possible drug to treat chronic diseases would be revolutionary. Using mRNA technology, the drug would be the first to directly go inside cells and manage protein production. The creation of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine has shown researchers that it is possible to mass produce billions of these mRNA strands and lipid nanoparticles. Therefore, while we may not see doctors prescribing it any time in the near future, this malleable mRNA drug could possibly serve as a threat to chronic diseases and can improve the health of people around the world.

About Mr. Mohn

Biology Teacher

This entry was written by Pragathi V. and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *