Action films are where you tend to find breakneck timing like this.
The same week that the United States COVID case count is shooting through the roof, a hero comes to save the day. Except neither Will Smith nor Tom Cruise star in this show.
They teamed up on a COVID shot that was 90% effective on in the first 94 test subjects. The results are so good in testing that the duo hopes to request FDA permission to sell by the end of November.
To understand what makes their vaccine different, we should first review what a vaccine is.
What is a vaccine?
Vaccines teach the body to battle ailments for which it has little or no immunity. They augment the function of our immune system. Here’s how:
When bacteria slip inside of us and cause trouble, all sorts of alarms go off, white blood cells of different types collaborate, one makes antibodies to fight off the bacteria, for the win.
Antibodies are like passwords that open accounts, one for every bacteria. And they stay around in case that bacteria wants more.
Vaccines work the same way, stimulating antibodies that have the password for a particular bacteria or virus.
What kind of vaccine is this one?
The duo’s shot uses a new technology called Messenger RNA. To understand it fully, we should first define RNA. If RNA and DNA were basketball players from the 20th century, DNA would be Michael Jordan.
RNA would be John Stockton — DNA is the star.
It has all the cell’s data and lives in the nucleus. RNA, whose full name is ribonucleic acid, works overtime but is not as popular. RNA is a copy of DNA. DNA has key information but cannot leave the nucleus.
RNA runs hither and yon, just as Stockton did on the court, doing all sorts of work. It delivers DNA’s exact info where it needs to be. One place RNA delivers to is the cytoplasm.
What is a ribosome?
A ribosome is an organelle or a tiny factory in a cell. This factory makes protein, and it lives in the cytoplasm. It’s where the RNA goes when it’s time for protein synthesis.
What is messenger RNA?
Messenger RNA or mRNA is the kind of RNA that takes DNA’s patterns out to the cytoplasm where the ribosome is. The ribosome will read the code the RNA is carrying. Presto — it will make a specific protein. In this case, the particular protein it makes will protect against COVID.
The vaccine uses the genes for the outer spike proteins of the coronavirus to cause an immune response. Traditional vaccines use the whole virus to spark this response.
By isolating the genes that make those spike proteins, they cause us to defend against spike proteins of the corona once injected.
What happens next?
Two months of monitoring for side effects are required by the FDA. Pfizer says it will have that by the third week of November. There is no word on how long immunity lasts since the study just began.