Explaining the theory behind mRNA vaccines

Let’s begin by becoming familiar with DNA – the genetic blueprint from which all biological life is created. While James Watson and Francis Crick are often given credit for discovering the structure of DNA in the early 1950s, their conclusions relied upon the research of many scientists who came before them, as noted below.

Putting the Evidence Together: Watson and Crick Propose the Double Helix
Watson and Crick were not the discoverers of DNA, but rather the first scientists to formulate an accurate description of this molecule’s complex, double-helical structure. Moreover, Watson and Crick’s work was directly dependent on the research of numerous scientists before them, including Friedrich Miescher, Phoebus Levene, and Erwin Chargaff. Thanks to researchers such as these, we now know a great deal about genetic structure, and we continue to make great strides in understanding the human genome and the importance of DNA to life and health.

By: Leslie A. Pray, Ph.D., “Discovery of DNA Structure and Function: Watson and Crick,” © 2008 Nature Education

In the following report, a Hong Kong-based journalist named Stella Lo explains the relationship between DNA and its single strand copy known as RNA.

Okay, I’ve heard of DNA before, but what’s RNA? RNA is a one-strand copy of the DNA. Whilst DNA is like the master cookbook that is kept in the restaurant head chef’s bookshelf, RNA is a copy of the cookbook.

Stella Lo, “How the mRNA vaccine works (No jargon, only layman’s terms),” Jan 3, 2021

Rupert J. Mackenzie comments further about the relationship between DNA and RNA to human genetics.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) are perhaps the most important molecules in cell biology, responsible for the storage and reading of genetic information that underpins all life. They are both linear polymers, consisting of sugars, phosphates and bases, but there are some key differences which separate the two.

DNA encodes all genetic information, and is the blueprint from which all biological life is created. And that’s only in the short-term. In the long-term, DNA is a storage device, a biological flash drive that allows the blueprint of life to be passed between generations. RNA functions as the reader that decodes this flash drive. This reading process is multi-step and there are specialized RNAs for each of these steps.

Ruairi J Mackenzie, “DNA vs. RNA – 5 Key Differences and Comparison,” Technology Networks, Last Updated: March 31, 2022

As stated in Mr. Mackenzie’s report, Messenger RNA is one of the three types of RNA whose functions are summarized below.

Messenger RNA (mRNA) copies portions of genetic code, a process called transcription, and transports these copies to ribosomes, which are the cellular factories that facilitate the production of proteins from this code.

MACKENZIE, “DNA vs. RNA – 5 Key Differences and Comparison

In her report, Stella Ho explained the scientific theory behind the rollout of mRNA vaccines that are being used globally to fight against Covid-19.

Scientists examined the Covid-19 virus, and noticed its ‘spikes’. They figured out the instructions for producing these spikes on the virus, like recipes for cooking a signature dish. The so called mRNA vaccines, contain exactly that — instructions for producing the spikes.

LO, “How the mRNA vaccine works (No jargon, only layman’s terms).”
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