Each protein in the cell forms according to a coherent plan. This plan is called RNA matrix – mRNA – and is a copy of genes [DNA] in the nucleus of the cell. Coronavirus uses the same mechanism: it carries mRNA into the cell, which contains construction information on all components of the virus.
The mRNA propagates in the cell, incorporates into new virus particles, and eventually, a large amount of the virus leaves the cell to attack new cells.
The mRNA vaccines are based on the knowledge of this mechanism. In the case of a CureVac vaccine, the artificially created mRNA obtains construction information on a specific coronavirus surface protein, a spike protein.
After the vaccine is administered, this protein is produced by affected cells in the body. The immune system recognizes the foreign antigen, initiates an immune response and subsequently forms a protection against the actual pathogen. At least that’s the theory.
Since Friday, this theory has also been tested on humans in a clinical trial at the University Hospital in Tubingen.
According to Professor Peter Kremsner, Director of the Tubingen Institute for Tropical Medicine and Head of the Research, “The first test person was vaccinated on Friday. It went well. The drug is very well tolerated, there were no side effects or abnormalities, and we will continue to work with the next three subjects who have already been vaccinated and the situation continues to look very good”.
Kremsner explained how the mRNA-based active substance works saying, “The mRNA vaccine is introduced into the cell with lipid particles that surround the mRNA. It is then transduced into the actual antigen. In the end, the structure is always the same – whether it is a DNA vaccine, an mRNA vaccine or a protein vaccine”.
“All vaccine variants are essentially based on the spike protein that the Chinese scientists described in January when they first described the virus. In some cases, the protein is still slightly processed, but in fact, it is C-protein, which contains all the vaccines,” Kremsner added.
Kremsner noted that the first phase can be successfully accomplished here, explaining, “At the moment, the only countries in the EU where efficacy could be tested are Sweden and perhaps Portugal. We cannot start the third phase of the research, during which we can see the effectiveness of the drug if the situation remains at the current level and the number of patients continues to decrease”.
“That is why it is necessary to think globally and involve many other regions where the epidemic is still widespread. For example, in North and South America, in some Asian countries, primarily the Arab countries, but also in Africa,” he said.