Written by Christopher Curley

Scientists believe that the groundbreaking mRNA technology behind the COVID-19 vaccines could unlock treatments for deadly diseases, including cancer and HIV.  

According to a new report from Inverse, scientists are experimenting with the technology that helped develop the coronavirus vaccine as a way to treat terminal illnesses. 

The COVID vaccine was discovered by hacking the body’s genetic blueprints, something that researchers believe can be used to further develop vaccines for cancer and HIV. 

Traditional vaccines use a dead or inactivated virus to teach the immune system to recognize the invader in future and destroy it.

The multiple types of COVID-19 vaccines being used in different countries all train the body to recognize the new coronavirus, mostly the spike protein that coats it. 

But they require different technologies, raw materials, equipment and expertise to do so.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines authorized in the US are made by putting a piece of genetic code called mRNA — the instructions for that spike protein — inside a little ball of fat.

And now, because the mRNA vaccines are here, scientists are looking at the potential to use the technology to create other breakthrough therapies for diseases like cancer HIV, Parkinson’s disease, and others, by preventing them.

According to a press statement from the university, William Schief, a professor and immunologist at Scripps Research, his team’s study ‘demonstrates proof of principle for a new vaccine concept for HIV, a concept that could be applied to other pathogens, as well’.

‘With our many collaborators on the study team, we showed that vaccines can be designed to stimulate rare immune cells with specific properties, and this targeted stimulation can be very efficient in humans.

We believe this approach will be key to making an HIV vaccine and possibly important for making vaccines against other pathogens,’ Schief said. 

Schief’s team has so far developed a preliminary vaccine that shows promise for preventing infection with the HIV virus using the same technology as the Moderna vaccine. 

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