Learning Update — May 28, 2021

RNA, mRNA, cancer vaccines, and COVID vaccination rates


Long time no see.

A quick update: I will be using this “newsletter” to write about and share what I am learning.

Hopefully it is an ongoing thing that I’m able to keep up with. I am always learning, but writing takes much more time, for me.

Below is what I’ve been learning about this week.


  • RNA is downstream from DNA.

    • Both DNA and RNA store genetic information. But DNA is a more “durable” molecule and your body uses RNA to merely transfer information from your DNA (in the nucleus) to other parts of the cell (the ribosome).

    • Your DNA transcribes an RNA, which turns into an mRNA, which is then read by the ribosome to assemble chains of amino acids into particular proteins.

    • Proteins control everything in your body.

  • mRNA is just RNA with a cap and tail.

    • The cap is a guanine (G) nucleotide. It protects the mRNA from being broken down and also helps the ribosome attach to the mRNA and start reading it.

    • The tail is made up of 100 - 200 adenine (A) nucleotides. It makes the mRNA more stable and helps it move from the nucleus to the rest of the cell.

    • Question I have: Both the cap and tail are protecting the main transcription within the mRNA. But why is one G nucleotide on the cap sufficient to protect the cap end, while the tail needs 100-200 A’s?

  • mRNA vaccines can probably be used to treat cancer:

    • Cancer is a mutation in the DNA of certain cells, the “cancer cells”, which cause them to 1) mutate a lot more and 2) multiply a lot more.

    • Your immune system, specifically T-cells, could identify and kill those cells if they knew how to recognize them. In fact, T-cells do do this when they are able identify such cells — and therefore such cells do not proliferate and go on to cause “cancer.” But since T-cells identify “rouge” cells by examining their surface, when the cancer cell mutations affect the inside of the cell and leave the cell surface unchanged, T-cells are not able to recognize them — and therefore you get “cancer.” This might not be exactly right, but is how I think about it right now.

    • However, mRNA might be used to “teach” the immune system to identify cancer cells. This part I don't understand yet, but more or less: You can encode the genetic differences into mRNA, inject it in the lymph nodes where T-cells hang out, and this will teach the T-cells how to identify the mutated cancer cells.

    • Each vaccine would be unique to the patient: In order to identify cancer causing mutations, the patient’s “normal” DNA would be sequenced from non-cancer cells and compared to DNA sequenced from the cancer cells. The treatment would be highly targeted to the mutations in the individual patient’s cancer cells.

    • Such treatments are currently in trials.

Sources: [1], [2], [3]

  • I expect that Canada will soon be the most COVID-vaccinated country in the world, as other countries struggle with vaccine hesitancy.