As many Mississippians ignore, discredit, and denigrate science, the darn rascal keeps having more and more beneficial impact on our lives.
Know what mRNA is? It is messenger ribonucleic acid, one of several forms of RNA, a life essential complex molecule like DNA in our genetic system. What does mRNA do? Statnews.com offers this easy to understand explanation: “The body relies on millions of tiny proteins to keep itself alive and healthy, and it uses mRNA to tell cells which proteins to make.”
The scientific advancement of computers has itself led to the exponential development of genetic science and its applications. Many of us are experiencing a fantastic application at this time, i.e., the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for COVID-19. Both utilize synthetic mRNA that tells our cells how to make proteins that spur the immune system to generate the antibodies needed to fight off the COVID virus.
Synthetic mRNA? That’s manufactured mRNA. Thirty years ago scientists had a pipedream that synthetic mRNA could be utilized to get cells to do wonderful things like generate antibodies, enzymes, or agents to effect natural vaccines, cures for rare diseases, or tissue growth to mend organs. Around 2005 scientists found a way to inject synthetic mRNA into human bodies without spurring intense, negative immune responses.
Well, in theory. You see, this improved synthetic mRNA had never been approved for use in humans until the race for COVID vaccines occurred. Even then It was only approved on an emergency basis. But last week the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine using synthetic mRNA received full FDA approval. Moderna approval is expected soon. These approvals will set the stage for the use of synthetic mRNA for all sorts of amazing applications.
All this was made possible, according to Statenews.com, when Chinese scientists on January 10, 2020, posted online the genetic sequence for the COVID-19 virus. “Because companies that work with messenger RNA don’t need the virus itself to create a vaccine, just a computer that tells scientists what chemicals to put together and in what order, researchers at Moderna, BioNTech, and other companies got to work.”
Such genetic sequencing is another fantastic bit of science. The concept was developed in 1977. Initial sequencing was slow and tedious. In the late 1980s sequencing machines were developed. More advances occurred. Today fully automated sequencing machines give results quickly. Chinese scientists told Time they got results in 40 hours.
Let’s not overlook the monoclonal antibody treatments being used to lessen COVID symptoms. Monoclonal antibodies came on the scene around 1975. But it took the rapid advancements in genetic sequencing for monoclonal antibody development to reach its current level. Note that this treatment has only emergency FDA approval to date.
While politicians have muddled and meddled their way through the COVID pandemic over the past 20 months, science has responded quickly and effectively. Most of us don’t understand it, and many fear it. But we should appreciate the many blessings science provides us.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” – Ephesians 2:10.
Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.