mRNA vaccine technology provides a promising alternative to the traditional vaccine approach because of its high potency, rapid creation, and low-cost manufacturing and distribution potential.
Although the applications of mRNA vaccines had been restricted by the instability and inefficient in-vivo delivery of mRNA, recent technological advances have eliminated such issues and opened up new opportunities for the diverse applications of mRNA technology.
Several studies on mRNA efficacy against infectious diseases and different cancer types have demonstrated promising results in animal and human studies.
Conventional vaccine technology in a nutshell
Typically vaccines save millions of lives every year by preventing thousands of illnesses. Thanks to the potential of vaccines, diseases such as smallpox, polio, and measles have drastically reduced in various parts of the world. The conventional vaccine approaches, including inactivated pathogens and subunit vaccines, protect against multiple diseases.
Although that is a huge success, there are still major hurdles to developing vaccines against infectious pathogens that can invade the adaptive immune response. Even for most emerging vaccines, the main obstacle is not the efficacy of the conventional approaches but the need for faster development and deployment. For instance, the recent covid 19 pandemic required more rapid vaccine creation, trial, and deployment.
Moreover, the conventional vaccine approaches may not be applicable for non-infectious diseases like cancer. Therefore the development of a more robust and versatile vaccine technology is necessary.
mRNA vaccine technology
mRNA vaccine technology has emerged as a potential alternative to conventional vaccine approaches. mRNA vaccine history traces back to 1990 when reporter gene mRNA was administered to mice, and researchers detected protein production. It was the first report of the successful use of in-vitro transcribed mRNA in animals.
The following study published in 1992 established that the injection of vasopressin-encoding mRNA in the hypothalamus could trigger the physiological response in rats. Unfortunately, the early studies did not lead to significant investments in developing mRNA vaccines because of concerns associated with mRNA instabilities, inefficient in-vivo delivery, and high innate immunogenicity.
In recent years, major technological innovations in mRNA technology and research investments have made mRNA a promising tool in vaccine development and protein replacement therapies. mRNA vaccine technology has several benefits over killed and live attenuated virus, subunit, and DNA-based vaccines.
Benefits of mRNA technology
Firstly, mRNA vaccine technology is safe because mRNA is a non-infectious and non-integrating platform eliminating any potential risks of insertional mutagenesis or infection. Moreover, normal cellular processes degrade mRNA, and its in-vivo half-life can be regulated through various modifications and delivery techniques.
Secondly, several modifications make mRNA vaccines highly translatable and more efficient hence more efficacy. Specialists can formulate mRNA into carrier modules to allow faster uptake and expression in the cytoplasm, thus efficient in vivo delivery.
Thirdly, mRNA vaccines have the potential for rapid production and scalable manufacturing thanks to the high yields of in vitro transcription reactions. mRNA technology has proven effective in the rapid development and deployment to deal with the covid 19 pandemic.
mRNA vaccine technology has great potential to solve the challenges of conventional vaccine development.
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