From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : mRNA
Mains level : Vaccination challenges for coronavirus
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines which recently announced their success use the same technology, based on messenger RNA, or mRNA.
Try this PYQ first:
Q.‘RNA interference (RNAi)’ technology has gained popularity in the last few years. Why?
- It is used in developing gene silencing therapies.
- It can be used in developing therapies for the treatment of cancer.
- It can be used to develop hormone replacement therapies.
- It can be used to produce crop plants that are resistant to viral pathogens.
Select the correct answer using the code given below:
(a) 1, 2 and 4
(b) 2 and 3
(c) 1 and 3
(d) 1 and 4 only
What is mRNA?
- Messenger RNA (mRNA) is a single-stranded RNA (Ribo Nucleic Acid) molecule that is complementary to one of the DNA strands of a gene.
- The mRNA is an RNA version of the gene that leaves the cell nucleus and moves to the cytoplasm where proteins are made.
- During protein synthesis, an organelle called a ribosome moves along the mRNA, reads its base sequence, and uses the genetic code to translate each three-base triplet, or codon, into its corresponding amino acid.
What is the mRNA vaccine?
- Such vaccines make use of the messenger RNA molecules that tell the body’s cells what proteins to build.
- The mRNA, in this case, is coded to tell the cells to recreate the spike protein of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19.
- It is the spike protein — which appears as spikes on the surface of the coronavirus — that initiates the process of infection; it allows the virus to penetrate cells, after which it goes on to replicate.
- A coronavirus vaccine based on mRNA, once injected into the body, will instruct the body’s cells to create copies of the spike protein.
- In turn, this is expected to prompt the immune cells to create antibodies to fight it.
- These antibodies will remain in the blood and fight the real virus if and when it infects the human body.
Back2Basics: Ribo Nucleic Acid (RNA)
- RNA is an important biological macromolecule that is present in all biological cells.
- It is principally involved in the synthesis of proteins, carrying the messenger instructions from DNA, which itself contains the genetic instructions required for the development and maintenance of life.
- In some viruses, RNA, rather than DNA, carries genetic information.
- The type of RNA dictates the function that this molecule will have within the cell.
- Aside from the coding region of messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules that will be translated into proteins, other cellular RNA elements are involved in different processes.