(Web Desk) - There are different ways of producing vaccines. While most conventional vaccines use weakened or inactive form of the virus, a few are produced by using the pathogen’s genetic code. The latter type of vaccines are called mRNA vaccines and they are produced faster when compared to the conventional ones.
The Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines fall in the latter category, they are mRNA vaccines. They contain tiny fragments of coronavirus’ genetic material known as “messenger ribonucleic acid”.
The vaccines are being used in the inoculation drive including in Australia, have raised concerns of the possibility of recipients’ genetic code getting affected. However, there’s absolutely no scientific evidence to prove this occurs.
How do mRNA vaccines work?
The technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines is a way of giving your cells temporary instructions to make the coronavirus spike protein. This protein is found on the surface of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. The vaccines teach your immune system to protect you if you ever encounter the virus.
The mRNA in the vaccine is taken up by the cells in your body, ending up in the liquid inside each cell known as the cytoplasm. Our cells naturally make thousands of our own mRNAs all the time (to code for a range of other proteins). So the vaccine mRNA is just another one. Once the vaccine mRNA is in the cytoplasm it’s used to make the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.
The vaccine mRNA is short-lived and is rapidly broken down after it’s done its job, as happens with all your other mRNA.
Here’s why the mRNA can’t insert into your genetic code
Your genetic code is made up of a different, but related, molecule to the vaccine mRNA, known as DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid. And mRNA can’t insert itself into your DNA for two reasons.
One, both molecules have a different chemistry. If mRNAs could routinely insert themselves into your DNA at random, this would play havoc with how you produce proteins. It would also scramble your genome, which is passed on to future cells and generations. Life forms that do this would not survive. That’s why life has evolved for this not to happen.
The second reason is vaccine mRNA and DNA are in two different parts of the cell. Our DNA stays in the nucleus. But vaccine mRNA goes straight to the cytoplasm, never entering the nucleus. There are no transporter molecules we know of that carry mRNA into the nucleus.
It needs to be clarified that GMOs are different to the mRNA technology used to make COVID vaccines. Unlike GMOs, which are produced by inserting DNA into the genome, vaccine mRNA will not be in our genes or passed to the next generation. It’s broken down very quickly.
In reality, mRNA technology has all sorts of applications, beyond vaccines, including biosecurity and sustainable agriculture.