Shoot the Messenger: Research into mRNA Vaccinations and their Mechanisms

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mRNA vaccinations, viruses, vaccines


An mRNA vaccine is a new and upcoming technology used to combat several viruses. Because viruses rely on their host’s machinery to reproduce, it is difficult to treat viral infections with antiviral drugs. Instead, viruses are largely destroyed by the host’s own immune system. Vaccines are designed to expose a person’s immune system to live-attenuated or inactivated virus. These are unable to harm a person but allow adaptive immune defenses to develop. A search of the current literature, however, shows a shift in new mRNA technology being widely explored as an option for vaccine development. mRNA vaccines are unique because they themselves do not contain the antigens. Instead, the mRNA is used by a person’s cells to make viral proteins, which are then recognized by the immune system (Pardi et al., 2018). There are several advantages to using mRNA vaccines, such as easier production, stronger immune responses, and effectiveness against a wide variety of diseases. For example, there is not currently a vaccine for the virus that causes genital herpes. However, there is promising research suggesting that an mRNA vaccine could be effective against herpes simplex virus (Egan et al., 2020). The most recent global pandemic, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, made research and production of a vaccine a top priority. The first approved and widely distributed SARS-CoV-2 vaccine was an mRNA vaccine. Recent publications have shown the ease of production of this vaccine and its high effectiveness in producing immunity against the virus that causes COVID-19 (Anderson et al., 2020). A literature review is presented that explores advancements in mRNA vaccines, future applications of this technology, and difficulties that require future research, such as optimizing storage conditions.

First Advisor

Kari Potter

Research Area

Medical Laboratory Science

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