What Are mRNA Vaccines And How Do They Work

Updated on September 26, 2023

Vaccines usually help prevent infection by preparing the body to fight foreign invaders like bacteria, viruses and other pathogens. Each vaccine that is put in the body introduces harmful bacteria or viruses into your body. Most vaccines usually have weakened bacteria or viruses in them. Scientists have developed a new vaccine that uses a molecule messenger known as mRNA. Messenger RNA is a necessary form of RNA used to produce proteins. In cells, mRNA uses the data in genes to develop a blueprint for making proteins, and once cells finish making a protein, they quickly break down the mRNA vaccine so that they don’t interfere with the DNA. 

mRNA vaccines work by delivering a piece of mRNA that corresponds to a viral protein, typically a small fragment of a protein found on the virus’s outer membrane. (People who receive an mRNA vaccine are not exposed to the virus and cannot be infected by the vaccine.) Cells make the viral protein using this mRNA blueprint. The immune system recognises that the protein is foreign and produces specialised proteins known as antibodies as part of a normal immune response. Antibodies aid in infection prevention by recognising individual viruses or other pathogens, attaching to them, and marking the pathogens for destruction. Once produced, antibodies remain in the body even after the pathogen has been eliminated, allowing the immune system to function properly.

History of mRNA 

Malone’s experiment didn’t just come out of nowhere; as far as 1978, scientists used fatty membrane structures known as liposomes to transport mRNA into a mouse and human cells to induce protein expression. The liposomes packaged and safeguarded the mRNA and then fused the cell membrane to deliver the genetic material into cells. These experiments themselves were built on years of work with liposomes and with mRNA, which were both discovered in the 1960s. Back then, few researchers thought about mRNA as a medical product not because there were no ways to manufacture genetic material in the laboratory but because most scientists repurposed mRNA from rabbit blood, cultured mouse cells or some other animal source. 

Everything changed In 1984 when Krieg and other team members led by development biologist Douglas Melton and molecular biologists Tom Maniatis and Michael Green at Harvard University in Cambridge used an RNA-synthesis enzyme and other tools to come up with biologically active mRNA in the laboratory. This method is being used today. Kreg then injected the lab-made mRNA into frogs and showed that it works like the real thing. 

Melton and Kreig say they saw synthetic mRNA mainly as a research tool for studying gene functions and activity. In 1987, Melton found out that mRNA could be used to activate and prevent protein production. With this knowledge, he came up with an organisation known as the Oligogen. 


In this article, we have learned about the mRNA vaccine history and how it came to be, how it evolved and how it has started being used today in the medical field.

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.