Learning Update — May 28, 2021
RNA, mRNA, cancer vaccines, and COVID vaccination rates
|Sina Motamedi||May 29|
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.
I expect that Canada will soon be the most COVID-vaccinated country in the world, as other countries struggle with vaccine hesitancy.