March 16, 2020
As the world is gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic researchers around the world are racing to identify and create effective treatments and vaccines. One such company is Moderna Pharmaceuticals who have taken an unorthodox path in order to create a safe vaccine as swiftly as possible.
Researchers from Moderna are using new technology to create their experimental vaccine. Rather than using a weakened version of the virus in order to stimulate an immune response and build immunity to the virus, they are instead using synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA). Once this mRNA is in our bodies our cells will begin to produce a protein that is present on the outside of the novel coronavirus. Our immune system will then respond to this new protein by producing antibodies to target it and eliminate it from our bodies. This would thereby prepare our immune system to respond effectively should it ever be exposed to the actual virus.
While this approach of using mRNA has been trialed in the past it has not yet led to a vaccine that has made it to market, however, if this COVID-19 vaccine is successful it could revolutionize the way vaccines are created. Moderna is planning to begin a clinical trial in humans before the completion of animal trials of their vaccine in order to speed up the process. In fact, they are currently recruiting trial participants in Seattle, so watch this space!
Source: Scientific American
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