The use of RNA vaccinations is a relatively new process which immunizes humans with mRNA molecules that produce antibodies against certain diseases. Its main purpose is to provide immunity against viral infections such as Hepatitis C, dengue fever and influenza, among others.
RNA is short-chain nucleic acid, which stands for Ribonucleic acid. RNA vaccinations work by introducing artificial messenger RNA transcripts into the human body. These mRNAs are then used to synthesize vRNA molecules, which later produce antibodies against the viruses under attack by the immune system.
When RNA vaccinations are injected into human bodies, they trick immunological cells called antigen-presenting cells (APCs). These APCs then use other helper molecules to create vRNA molecules that induce antibody production. This process also causes another type of cell, known as a B lymphocyte, to produce lots of antibodies against the virus in question.
The main advantages brought about by this method of vaccination include:
1. The ability of mRNA vaccines to produce more stable proteins in comparison with conventional vaccines and therefore have longer shelf life.
2. Their capacity to induce immune responses quickly.
3. Their capability to protect living organisms without going through genetic engineering since their RNA bases are similar to those of living organisms.
4. The fact that mRNA molecules can be synthesized in laboratories and therefore, it is easier to scale up production for large-scale immunization programs.
One important point to recognize is that the use of RNA vaccines will not lead to the development of a virus within the human body. To be more specific, when vRNA molecules are used by APCs on B lymphocytes to create antibodies against viruses, nothing infective comes out from these cells. This is because unlike DNA, which creates proteins through transcription and translation, RNA only carries information coded in genes – with no ability to function outside its normal sequence or cause harm if released into the environment. Therefore, there is no risk of pathogenicity from the use of RNA vaccines.
Since the discovery of this new technology, RNA vaccinations have been employed for mass immunization programs in several countries. These include Bangladesh and Peru where they were used in a 2013 Hepatitis C vaccination campaign covering over 16,000 volunteers aged between 18-59 years. The effectiveness of this program was later evaluated to be as high as 86%. While there is still further research to be done regarding improvement and applications of RNA technology in vaccinations, it is clear that this is a promising field which will bring great benefit and relief for healthcare around the world.