Biochemist Katalin Kariko, University of Szeged, Hungary, and Drew Wiseman, University of Pennsylvania, for their research on mRNA changes that made possible the development of the first vaccines against Covid. They won the 2023 Nobel Prize in Medicine.
According to a member of the Nobel committee at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, which awards the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology: “Everyone has experienced the death of Covid-19; Globalization that affected life, economy and public health. There is no need to overemphasize what a tremendous impact this fundamental discovery had on society.”
According to the report of the World Health Organization, from December 2020 (when the first dose of the Covid vaccine became available) to September 2023, more than 13.5 billion doses of vaccines (including mRNA vaccines and other types of vaccines) have been injected into people. It is estimated that in the year after their introduction, these vaccines saved the lives of about 20 million people worldwide.
A different type of vaccine
RNA is a lesser known molecule similar to DNA. Cells make copies of RNA from their genetic instructions contained in DNA. Some of those copies, called messenger RNA or mRNA, are used to make proteins.
Messenger RNA tells cells what proteins to make. Proteins do very important things in the body to keep cells and the organism they are a part of healthy and alive.
mRNA vaccines work a little differently than traditional vaccines. Most conventional vaccines use viruses or bacteria (weakened or killed) or proteins from pathogens to stimulate the immune system to produce protective antibodies and other defenses against future infections.
The covid 19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna companies contain mRNA that contains the instructions for making one of the proteins of the corona virus.
When a person receives an mRNA vaccine, the genetic material enters their cells and stimulates the cells to produce the viral protein for a short period of time. When the immune system encounters a viral protein, it creates a defense to prevent serious illness if the person is later infected with the coronavirus.
Vaccines that use mRNA were a good choice to fight tetanus. mRNA technology allows scientists to skip making large amounts of protein in the lab and instead tell the body to make a little extra protein.