When science moves quickly to address a global crisis, such as the Covid-19, every step forward is crucial. Sometimes, however, it is in the hidden details that the most significant surprises are hidden. A study from the University of Cambridge just published in Nature (I link it here) revealed an unexpected phenomenon in mRNA vaccines. A notable proportion of those vaccinated showed an "unexpected" immune response.
The implications of this discovery are serious. They open new horizons in vaccine research and raise crucial questions about the interaction between technology and biology. What exactly happened? Let's proceed calmly.
The Cambridge discovery
The study conducted by the prestigious English university highlighted that more than a quarter of people vaccinated with mRNA (from 25% to 30% of the total) experienced an "unexpected immune response". This phenomenon is due to the body's "misreading" of the vaccine, which sometimes leads to the production of nonsense proteins, instead of the desired Covid-19 "spike" protein.
mRNA vaccines, like those developed by Pfizer and Moderna, have been a milestone in the fight against Covid-19. Their innovative technology, the basis of which it earned its developers a Nobel Prize, uses a strand of genetic material to instruct the body to make a specific protein, safely mimicking an infection. A mechanism that has allowed the rapid and precise development of highly effective vaccines.
Despite the high efficacy, the study revealed that editing uridine, one of the components of RNA, can cause occasional reading problems in cells in many vaccine recipients. A phenomenon known as “frameshifting”. These errors, although they did not generate adverse effects, raise questions about the possibility of creating active and potentially harmful proteins in other future mRNA vaccines.
The response of the scientific community
The scientific community, however, did not stop in front of this discovery. The authors of the study proposed a simple but effective solution: modify the mRNA code to minimize the use of problematic pseudo-uridine, replacing it with a natural base that prevents unwanted “jumps” in the reading process.
This new information, shared with medicines regulator MHRA, paves the way for updated vaccines using an improved form of mRNA. These advancements promise to make the technology even safer for future applications, not only in the field of vaccines but also in other therapeutic treatments.
More attention to vaccinated people
The Cambridge research highlighted a crucial aspect of vaccine science: the need for continued commitment to safety and innovation. Even in the face of unexpected discoveries, science is ready to evolve and adapt, ensuring that breakthrough technologies like mRNA vaccines can continue to save lives safely and effectively.
Every step, even the smallest, is essential to building a safer and healthier future for everyone.