The news is filled with the exciting possibility that the recently created, experimental RNA vaccine may offer a rapid response to serious diseases. The RNA vaccine is still in the early developmental stages and is being developed and manufactured at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The RNA vaccine’s testing has displayed the harnessed genetic material’s potential to be customized in order to fight every viral, bacterial and parasitic disease through a generated immune response.
RNA is a genetic material that is placed into a molecule and then delivered into the human cells with the purpose of invoking an active immune response against a particular disease or pathogen. The MIT researcher’s approach will allow customized vaccines to be quickly created.
The RNA vaccine has the potential to fight a variety of pathogens, and due to its ability to fight so many viral, bacterial and parasitic diseases, MIT researchers have shared information that this vaccine may provide an answer for protection against influenza, Ebola and Zika viruses.
Omar Khan is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology chemical engineer who has helped to develop the RNA. He is quoted as saying, “When there is an extraordinary need and you need something that is safe, then we have the ability to make that happen.”
The extraordinary need to stop the spread of this potentially worldwide virus has caused scientists around the world to admittedly seek a scientific breakthrough that will result in the creation of a Zika vaccine. The Zika virus has recently spread to the Americas, where it has been found in Florida, USA.
The Zika virus is a serious threat for pregnant women, because it has been found to create the birth defect, microcephaly. Conventional vaccines could take months or even years to manufacture, because they are created from a purified, inactive version of a virus, and RNA uses an active version. The RNA vaccine has sparked a fever of hope and expectancy.
This vaccine takes only one week to manufacture and could provide a quick answer for disease outbreaks. The messenger RNA was discovered decades ago, and a desire to create a package that could adequately deliver the RNA into human cells had remained elusive, until now.
Daniel Anderson, who is an MIT professor of applied biology and chemical engineering, shared that researchers have successfully packaged the RNA into molecules with a shape and electrical charge that allows them to be manipulated into a human cell, similarly to the activity of a virus when it enters a cell.
Scientists successfully developed and tested Ebola and H1N1 vaccines that were proven to be 100 percent effective in a study on lab mice. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published this study in July.
Omar Kahn shared an update in July confirming that the researchers have now tested an RNA vaccine for Zika on lab mice, which produced similarly successful results.
Anderson stated, “The nanoparticle goes inside of the cell and then releases this RNA, and then the RNA makes copies of itself and it also makes proteins that are antigens (inducing an immune response). So these are the same types of proteins you might get for a vaccine.”
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) have announced, in August, the beginning of testing on 80 volunteers who are ages 18-35. This news follows confirmed Zika cases in Florida that have also been confirmed to have spread through mosquitoes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Zika has mostly affected Latin America and the Caribbean, but has been reported to 50 countries and territories worldwide. The experimental RNA vaccine may offer a quick response to Zika and other diseases.
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