Vaccines with mRNA technology used for coronavirus seem to be very effective!
The CEO of the German start up BioNTech Ugur Sahin, cites new research showing that a vaccine with this technology could be used for multiple sclerosis.
In experiments performed with mice, His team found that a mRNA vaccine encoding a disease-related antigen successfully improved the symptoms of multiple sclerosis in sick animals and prevented the disease from progressing to rodents that showed early signs of disease.. The results of the research were published in the journal Science.
The goal of the company during its establishment was to create immunotherapy for cancer with the method of mRNA, however, it met the challenge of Covid-19 in the midst of a pandemic.
Conventional vaccines tend to be inactivated or attenuated viruses that, when injected into the body, stimulate an immune response that may later protect against the living pathogen. However, The process of obtaining such vaccines requires various chemicals and cell cultures. This takes time and creates the risk of infection in the meantime.
MRNA vaccines do not have such problems. They teach the body to make offensive proteins - in this case, those that wrap the viral RNA of SARS-CoV-2. Subsequently, the immune system nests in these antigens, practiced for the day when the same proteins will appear with the coronavirus attached to them.
This is where the greatest promise of mRNA lies: can invite our cells to produce whatever protein we want. This includes antigens of many diseases other than Covid-19.
In its daily operation, mRNA gets instructions from its molecular cousin, the DNA in the nuclei of our cells. Parts of the genome are thus copied, which the mRNA transfers to the cytoplasm, where small cellular plants called ribosomes use the information to make proteins.
BioNTech and Moderna shortened this process, bypassing the entire complex operation in the nucleus with DNA. Instead, they first understand what protein they want - for example, a spike in the "coat" around a virus. Subsequently, examine the sequence of amino acids that produce this protein. From this they derive the exact instructions that the mRNA must give.
This process can be relatively quick, so it took less than a year to produce the vaccines, a rhythm that was previously unthinkable. It is also genetically safe - mRNA cannot return to the nucleus and mistakenly insert genes into our DNA.
Researchers since the decade 1970 there were indications that one could use this technique to fight all kinds of diseases. But as is usually the case in science, one needs huge sums of money, time and patience to resolve all intermediate problems.
After a decade of excitement, mRNA fell academically into disfavor in his decade 1990. Progress seemed to stop. The main obstacle was that injecting mRNA into animals often caused fatal inflammation.
Katalin Kariko, a Hungarian scientist who immigrated to the United States in the 1990s, went into exile there. 1980 and heroically devoted her entire career to mRNA, despite the relevant "ups and downs". In his decade 1990, lost its funding, was demoted, saw a reduction in her salary and suffered other blows. However, remained attached to it. Subsequently, after a battle she gave herself with cancer, made the crucial discovery.
In his decade 2000, she and her research partner realized that the removal of uridine, one of the "letters" of mRNA, was enough to avoid inflammation without compromising the code. The mice survived.
Her study was read by a scientist at Stanford University, Derrick Rossi, who later co-founded Moderna. It also came to the attention of Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, two oncologists who are spouses and co-founders of BioNTech. They licensed Kariko technology and hired her. From beginning, they themselves were more interested in the treatment of cancer.
Today's anti-cancer weapons will one day look primitive, such as silicon shafts in a operating room. To kill a malignant tumor, generally affects him with radiation or chemicals, destroying many other tissues in the process.
Investors will no longer hesitate
The best way to fight cancer, as Sahin and Tureci realized, is to treat each tumor as genetically unique and to train the immune system of each individual patient against that particular enemy. A perfect job for mRNA. You find the antigen, you get his fingerprint, invert cellular instructions to target the "culprit" and let the body do the rest.
Take a look at Moderna and BioNTech research. They include drug trials for the treatment of breast cancer, of the prostate, of the skin, of the pancreas, of the brain, lung and other tissues, as well as vaccines against any kind of disease, από τη γρίπη έως εκείνη που προκαλεί ο ιός Ζίκα και τη λύσσα. The outlook looks good.
The progress, of course, it was slow. Part of the explanation given by Sahin and Tureci is that investors in this sector need to have a lot of capital and then wait more than a decade, first for clinical trials and then for regulatory approvals. In the past, very few were in a similar mood.
Covid-19 could speed up all these processes. The pandemic led to a major debut of mRNA vaccines and the definitive proof of their validity. Already, there are "whispers" for a Nobel Prize in Kariko. Hereinafter, the mRNA will have no problem receiving money, Attention or enthusiasm - from investors, regulators and policy makers.
This does not mean that this last phase of development of this technology will be easy. However, in this dark hour, one is allowed to enjoy the fading light at the bottom of the tunnel.