An RNA vaccine is a novel type of vaccine which is composed of the nucleic acid RNA, packaged within a vector such as lipid nanoparticles. No RNA vaccines have yet been approved for medical use, though clinical trials are ongoing.
Just like normal vaccines, RNA vaccines are intended to induce the production of antibodies which will bind to potential pathogens. This is accomplished when the RNA from the vaccine (a messenger RNA) is delivered into cells in the body, which then produce proteins that resemble or are identical to proteins from the pathogen. These proteins are then used by the body’s adaptive immune system to produce antibodies against the pathogen, causing future protection from the pathogen.
Since RNA vaccines are much faster to synthesise and begin testing than traditional vaccines (which would either require mass production of pathogen proteins or the generation of an attenuated mutant of the pathogen), a number of RNA vaccines are under development to combat the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.
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