Drugs of the future will be easier and faster to make, thanks to mRNA − after researchers work out a few remaining kinks

Drugs of the future will be easier and faster to make, thanks to mRNA − after researchers work out a few remaining kinks

science, technology By Jan 04, 2024 No Comments

Drugs of the Future: Harnessing the Power of mRNA for Swift and Streamlined Development

Vaccines have long been a stalwart in safeguarding global Health, yet their development has been an intricate and protracted process. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, brought to the fore the unparalleled potential of messenger RNA (mRNA) as a game-changing tool in medicine. This novel approach to vaccine development now holds immense promise for fast-tracking the creation of drugs targeting a multitude of diseases.

Revolutionizing Vaccine Development

The emergence of mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 has marked a watershed moment in the sphere of vaccine development. This innovative methodology presents a seismic shift from conventional processes, eliminating the need for bespoke Manufacturing infrastructure for each vaccine candidate. Moreover, the knowledge gained from developing one vaccine can now be readily transferrable to the creation of others, perpetuating a paradigm shift in drug development.

Unraveling the Mechanism of mRNA

As a biochemist at UMass Chan Medical School, I specialize in optimizing mRNA technology to unleash its full potential as a therapeutic agent. mRNA comprises genetic information in the form of four building blocks – A, C, G, and U – directing the production of specific proteins within cells. Key to the development of mRNA drugs are lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) encapsulating mRNA molecules, ensuring their protection and efficient delivery into target cells.

The Promise of mRNA Drugs

One of the most compelling advantages of mRNA drugs lies in their unparalleled programmability, allowing for swift adaptation and production of diverse drug candidates. With the ability to generate vast quantities of mRNA from readily available DNA templates, the production of distinct mRNA drugs can be seamlessly achieved by simply modifying the corresponding DNA templates.

Distinct Properties of mRNA Drugs

The intrinsic properties of mRNA drugs render them a formidable contender in the world of drug development. With a short half-life in cells, mRNA technology is ideally suited for therapies necessitating transient presence in the body. Furthermore, mRNA drugs hold the potential to stimulate the immune system, an attribute that can be leveraged for the development of a diverse range of drugs.

Overcoming Immunogenicity Hurdles

However, the use of therapeutic mRNAs can inadvertently trigger an immune response within the body. To circumvent this, researchers have made pioneering strides in modifying mRNA’s building blocks to avert the unwanted immune response while ensuring the unhindered synthesis of the target protein by the cell.

Addressing Immune Response Challenges

Another challenge in the realm of mRNA drugs is the potential immune response stemming from impurities during mRNA production. While residual double-stranded RNA can enhance immune responses for vaccines, it necessitates a cleaner RNA product for non-vaccine applications to mitigate adverse effects.

Charting a Course for mRNA Drug Development

Fully realizing the potential of mRNA in drug development necessitates a deliberate approach to identify ideal targets for this transformative technology. Diseases requiring a transient presence of the therapeutic protein in the body emerge as promising candidates for mRNA-based treatments.

Unlocking the Potential for Genetic Diseases

Disorders such as hereditary transthyretin amyloidosis, stemming from genetic mutations, present an optimal application for leveraging mRNA technology in delivering CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing proteins to target and neutralize the genes causing the disease.

Advancements Propelling the Future of mRNA Therapeutics

The next frontier in mRNA therapeutics lies in further refining the technology to extend the half-life of mRNA and minimize immune-triggering contaminants. Notable developments in this arena, such as optimizing mRNA sequences via computational algorithms and Engineering RNA polymerases to reduce side products, are poised to pave the way for a new era of durable and efficacious mRNA therapeutics.

Source: theconversation

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