What is RNA?
RNA stands for “ribonucleic acid.” RNA is a large molecule made from a single strand of DNA, and one of its main roles is to transfer the instructions needed to make proteins.
While DNA has the instructions on how to make proteins, it is RNA that factually provides these instructions to the ribosomes, organelles in the cell that act as “protein factories” You see, DNA never actually leaves the cell’s nucleus. The nucleus instead builds a single-threaded molecule called RNA, which has a copy of the DNA’s instructions. Like DNA, RNA consists of nitrogen bases that act as a code that can be read by the cell. The RNA then takes the copy of the instructions and delivers them to the ribosomes. RNA helps the ribosomes properly build the correct proteins that the body needs.
What is mRNA?
There are several different types of RNA. One type of RNA is called mRNA, which stands for “messenger RNA.” mRNA is RNA read by ribosomes to build proteins.
While all types of RNA participate in building proteins, mRNA is the one that actually acts as the messenger. It is mRNA that has the recipe for a protein. Like all RNA, the mRNA is made in the nucleus and sent to the ribosome. Once it gets there, the mRNA bonds with the ribosome, which reads the mRNA’s nitrogen base sequence. Every three-bond sequence of mRNA relates to a specific amino acid, a “building block” of a protein. mRNA has the information that tells the ribosome which amino acids to get and the arrangement order.
Other types of RNA, such as transfer RNA (tRNA) and ribosomal RNA (rRNA), help the ribosome really build the protein. Once the protein is formed, the mRNA’s job is over, and it will degrade.
Role of mRNA in COVID-19 vaccines?
Usually, a vaccine uses a weakened or damaged version of a virus so that your body can have a “practice run” of fighting it. Your body will make antibodies that fight this weak form of the virus and thus will be able to recognize this same virus in the future and be able to quickly react to the actual virus if ever exposed to it.
An mRNA vaccine works differently. Rather than inject a person with the real virus, a vaccine like this is administered into the cells with some of the mRNA of the virus. This mRNA contains instructions on how to build “spike protein,” meaning the protein found on the spiky surface of a virus. This protein is harmless and has no ill effects on the body.
So, your cells will begin making this harmless spike protein, and your immune system will then recognize that this spike protein doesn’t belong in your body and make antibodies designed to destroy it. To make a long story short, it means your body will be able to recognize the spike proteins used by the real virus. Hence, your immune system will immediately be able to make antibodies that swarm and kill the virus if it ever detects the spike protein in the body.
Luckily, you don’t need to become an expert in macromolecules for your body to function or the vaccine to do its job. Your body automatically performs the complex functions described here to keep you alive.
What are mRNA vaccines, and how do they work?
Vaccines help prepare the body to fight foreign invaders (pathogens such as bacteria or viruses) to prevent infection. All vaccines introduce a harmless piece of a particular bacteria or virus into the body, triggering an immune response. Most vaccines contain weakened or dead bacteria or viruses. However, scientists have developed a new type of vaccine that uses a molecule called messenger RNA (or mRNA for short) rather than part of an actual bacteria or virus. Messenger RNA is a type of RNA that is necessary for protein production. In cells, mRNA uses the information in genes to create a blueprint for making proteins. Once cells finish making a protein, they quickly break down the mRNA. mRNA from vaccines does not enter the nucleus and does not alter DNA.
mRNA vaccines work by introducing a piece of mRNA corresponding to a viral protein, usually, a small protein found on the virus’s outer membrane. (Individuals who get an mRNA vaccine do not get exposed to the virus, nor can they become infected by the vaccine.) Using this mRNA blueprint, cells produce the viral protein. As part of a normal immune response, the immune system recognizes that the protein is foreign and produces specialized proteins called antibodies. Antibodies help protect the body against infection by recognizing individual viruses or other pathogens, attaching to them, and marking the pathogens for destruction. Once produced, antibodies remain in the body, even after the body has rid itself of the pathogen, so that the immune system can quickly respond if exposed again. Suppose a person is exposed to a virus after receiving mRNA vaccination for it. In that case, antibodies can quickly recognize it, attach to it, and mark it for destruction before it can cause serious illness.
Everyone age 12 and older should get a free COVID-19 vaccination, including pregnant people and those planning to become pregnant. You should get a COVID-19 vaccine even if you have already had COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccines protect people from getting COVID-19. These vaccines “teach” your body how to defend against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Covid-19 vaccines are shown to do an excellent job of:
Preventing infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. Protecting against serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19. Reducing the risk of people spreading COVID-19
COVID-19 vaccines: DO NOT contain any live virus, and they cannot give you COVID-19. DO NOT affect or interfere with your genes (DNA). DO NOT affect or interfere with pregnancy, nor do they make you infertile.