- Experts say the mRNA technique used to create COVID-19 vaccines has the potential to revolutionize that industry.
- They say the new technology could help develop vaccines for the flu and HIV.
- The mRNA technique works by recreating a signature feature of a virus and teaching the immune system to attack it.
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A novel technology used for the two COVID-19 vaccines that are being distributed in the United States could revolutionize the creation of future vaccines and medical therapies.
More than 100 COVID-19 vaccines are in development or in clinical trials, but the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna share a common development process.
Each uses a breakthrough gene-editing technique that modifies messenger RNA (mRNA) to induce an immune response.
Following the successful development of the COVID-19 vaccine, Moderna has already announced its intention to develop vaccines for both the flu and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) using this technique.
“RNA is basically biological code or biological software,” Dr. John P. Cooke, a physician-scientist with Houston Methodist Hospital and an expert in mRNA technology, told Healthline.
“You write the code very quickly and pretty much encode in the RNA any protein that we want the cells to generate,” he said. “If we can get that software into the cell, the cell will follow those instructions and make that protein for us.”
In the case of the COVID-19 vaccine, the mRNA strand is programmed to create the “spike protein” of the novel coronavirus, which induces an immune response that can protect against an encounter with the real virus.