Vaccines are the key to disease prevention. Vaccines have eradicated one of the most destructive diseases known to man, the small–pox.
To understand how vaccines work, we should try to understand how our body fight against these invaders. When a pathogen enters our body, they attack our cells and multiply. This causes an imbalance which we term as illness. Our immune system has an army of cells in variety namely B-lymphocytes, T-lymphocytes, and macrophages.
When our body meets a pathogen, the B-lymphocytes produce antibodies in response to it. The T-lymphocytes are defensive cells that destroys the infected cells. The macrophages produces white blood cells that swallow up and digest dying or dead cells and pathogens. The macrophages leave behind parts of pathogens (antigen) which triggers the body to produce antibodies initially.
When the body meets a pathogen for the first time, it may take days for it to generate an immune response. The T-lymphocytes are memory cells, it remembers how to protect our body from that pathogen. Next time a similar antibody is seen, the immune system generates and attacks the pathogen very quickly.
Now, vaccines work by inserting the antigen into the body so that our body could produce the antibodies that is necessary to protect ourselves from that pathogen. Antigens are inserted into our bodies in form of dead viruses or viruses in weakened state such that they do not posses any threat to our body. Small pox vaccines have vaccinia virus, a pox virus that is similar to small pox virus but very less harmful for our body. Scientists use a combination of these techniques to create a vaccine for the virus. However, it is a very time–consuming process and it takes years to create a vaccine that doesn’t harm us.
But recently, we have been hearing news about vaccines going into trails for COVID 19 within months the disease was first spotted. But how ? It’s all thanks to the a new novel technique called RNA vaccines. Unlike traditional vaccines, RNA vaccines work by inserting mRNA sequences into our cells so that our cells could produce the disease specific antigen.
How does mRNA produces antigens ? RNA Vaccines uses the process through which our cells make proteins : The information on how to produce a particular protein is store in our DNA. Our ribosomes gather the information from our DNA in form of mRNA which is then used by our cells to produce a particular protein. When mRNA of an antigen is inserted into our cells, our cells are tricked to produce the antigens. An interesting side note is that viruses uses the exact same way to trick our cells to produce more viruses (Fundamentally, viruses are nothing but a bunch of proteins).
Once a new virus is found, its DNA is extracted using which mRNA’s to produce antigens can be coded. All at a rate that is cheaper and much faster than traditional vaccines.
Well, if it is so easy then why haven’t we seen a vaccine for COVID 19 yet? That’s because this technique hasn’t been yet used to produce a working vaccine. It’s still in research stage and there are many questions that need to be answered. With COVID 19, there has been an increase in government funding for RNA vaccines and hopefully scientists could answer all those questions and we would see a vaccine soon. Until then, maintaining social distancing and personal hygiene should be strictly followed. The day when won’t be needing masks is coming soon! Stay Positive folks ! And Please DoSubscribe !
If you want to learn more about RNA Vaccines, please refer the links below. And there are courses are Coursera if you want to learn more about viruses and vaccines.
RNA Vaccines :