RNA Vaccines Destroy Cancer and Thwart Infectious Disease

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RNA Vaccines Destroy Cancer and Thwart Infectious Disease

The Deployment Phase of the Fifth Techno-Economic Revolution is already enabling breakthroughs that will significantly and permanently enhance the quality of life for nearly every human being.  A perfect example is the astonishing news that researchers are leveraging the power of gene suppression to develop vaccines against infectious diseases and many types of cancer.  This innovation only became possible in today’s era of digitalization because it is built on top of breakthroughs in digitally enabled, low-cost genomic and genetic engineering technology.

Since the 1980s, researchers have realized that short segments of messenger RNA could interfere with the production of proteins necessary for the replication of cancer cells and other diseases.  This is known as RNA interference, and we’ve been closely tracking it in Trends for a decade.

The problem has been the lack of a reliable, safe delivery method.  But now, two teams of researchers, working independently, have devised two promising new approaches to unlocking the game-changing potential of this technology.

At Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a team of researchers led by Jasdave Chahal and Omar Khan is designing strands of messenger RNA that can code for any viral, bacterial, or parasitic protein.  Then, in experiments on mice, they insert the RNA into a molecule that delivers it into cells, where it is translated into proteins that provoke an immune response from the host. 

So far, they have created genetically modified vaccines that, given in a single dose, have provided complete protection against Ebola, H1N1 influenza, and Toxoplasma gondii, which is similar to the parasite that causes malaria.

As they recently reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they enclosed the RNA vaccines into a nanoparticle made from a branched molecule known as a dendrimer.  They gave it a positive charge, enabling it to bond with the negatively charged RNA.1

They also manipulated the molecule so that it would fold into a tiny sphere with a diameter of about 150 nanometers.  That’s the same size as most viruses, so the vaccine could penetrate cells via the same surface proteins that viruses use.

The vaccine can be delivered by a simple injection into muscle tissue.  As the vaccine burrows it way into cells, the RNA turns into proteins that are released and stimulate the immune system to release T-cells and antibodies...

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