A scientific breakthrough
'Promising early data'
mRNA vaccine
A how-to manual for our cells
Cells that destroy cancer cells
A small sample
It's only up from here
A starting point for many cures
Decades of work
China also fights cancer
Hydrogel against tumors and metastasis
'The possibilities are endless'
HIV complications
mRNA also works on... snake bites
The end of diseases?
A scientific victory
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A scientific breakthrough

Pharmaceutical giant BioNTech presented during an American Cancer Society event last April the results of testing on humans the vaccine they are developing. The results have been very optimistic.

Image: Mufid Majnun / Unsplash

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'Promising early data'

'mRNA Cancer Treatment: Covid Vaccine Giant BioNTech Touts Promising Early Data', that's how Forbes magazine titled the news, released in mid-April, highlighting the importance of the mRNA-type of the vaccine in the process.

Image: National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

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mRNA vaccine

The Center for Disease Control of the United States defines Messenger RNA vaccines as those that teach “our cells how to make a protein that will trigger an immune response inside our bodies”.

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A how-to manual for our cells

Through a laboratory-designed molecule known as Messenger Ribonucleic Acid (mRNA), our bodies learn how to develop the right antibodies and other immune defenses against a specific disease. It worked against Covid-19 and, apparently, it's also working against cancer.

Image: Barn Images / Unsplash

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Cells that destroy cancer cells

The BioNTech treatment is focused on designing on genetically-engineered CAR T cells that have been amplified by the use of an mRNA vaccine. With this, our body is capable of fighting cancer cells alone, without the need for other treatments.

Image: National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

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A small sample

The BioNTech results have provided lots of expectations. However, the trial is in an early stage, conducted with a sample of only 16 people. Out of them, five got “partial responses” and a sixth had no traces of cancer six months after.

Image: CDC / Unsplash

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It's only up from here

Can we really talk about success from such a small study sample? BioNTech thinks so. The treatment has worked in some cases, without any questions about it. The only left is improving how mRNA vaccines and CAR T cells “teach” our body to fight off cancer cells.

Image: Ousa Chea / Unsplash

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A starting point for many cures

Many laboratories are focusing on the development of mRNA-type of vaccines since it could be the key to dealing with diseases such as malaria or hepatitis.

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Decades of work

The development of the mRNA technique is thanks to many decades of research. From Nobel laureate South African scientist Sydney Brenner in 1961 to researchers Drew Weissman and Katalin Karikó (pictured) and their work on the Covid-19 vaccine.

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China also fights cancer

BioNTech isn't the only one working on a vaccine against cancer. According to SkyNews, Chinese researchers have managed to get great results fighting melanoma in mice with the aid of an mRNA-type vaccine.

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Hydrogel against tumors and metastasis

The team from the Chinese National Center for Nanoscience and Technology managed to develop a hydrogel that is shot under the skin and shrinks tumors and prevents them from metastasis.

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'The possibilities are endless'

Another great medical challenge is finding a vaccine against AIDS. Lynda Stuart, Vice President of Infectious Diseases of the Gates Foundation, declared on Business Insider that with mRNA “The possibilities are endless”.

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HIV complications

However, HIV's ability to mutate and adapt let the virus escape any effective vaccination for the time being. Nonetheless, there are many treatments that allow HIV-positive people to live a normal life, and even a new AIDS treatment is on the way.

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mRNA also works on... snake bites

Business Insider reports that mRNA can be used to treat from heart attacks to snake bites. The idea behind it is to make genetically-modified cells fight off infections.

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The end of diseases?

Could this be the end of diseases as we know them? Well, that's still a pretty farfetched idea. Each different type of cancer, for instance, would need a very special, specific vaccine to deal with.

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A scientific victory

What is true is that these results are very promising. Forbes journalist Robert hart points out in his piece that new problems or side effects might arise in more comprehensive studies. However, BioNTech cofounder Özlem Türeci (pictured) believes that we're at the gate of a medium-term scientific victory.

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