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mRNA - Hype or Hope?

May 25, 2022

In the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, mRNA vaccines are a beacon of hope. Some say these vaccines could open up completely new treatment methods. But is mRNA technology really a game-changer in medicine.

DW-Dokumentation " mRNA - Hype oder Hoffnung"
Image: New Docs

Or is it just hype?

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For many years, mRNA technology was deemed unsuitable as a therapeutic approach. But today, over 150 different mRNA-based therapies and vaccines are currently being developed around the world.  In the future, mRNA is expected to be used to treat a wide range of diseases - including cancer, HIV, malaria, cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases. But how does it work exactly? 

DW-Dokumentation " mRNA - Hype oder Hoffnung"
Image: New Docs

This documentary shows how mRNA vaccines transport the blueprint of a viral protein into cells, which then begin to produce the foreign biomolecule. The immune system ramps up its defenses against the virus, even though it only encounters a small, harmless part of the pathogen. 

Scientists started investigating mRNA some three decades ago with the aim of developing individual therapies to treat cancer. Today, clinical studies are looking at how heart muscle regenerates immediately after a heart attack with an mRNA-based therapy.

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Image: Ansgar Pudenz/Deutscher Zukunftspreis
DW-Dokumentation " mRNA - Hype oder Hoffnung"
Image: New Docs

People with autoimmune diseases or HIV could also benefit from mRNA treatments and vaccines. Influenza viruses are constantly producing new strains. An mRNA vaccine could be adapted more quickly than conventional vaccines - and would therefore be more effective.

But what is the real potential of mRNA technology? What are the risks? What have scientists learned from COVID-19? Is mRNA technology medicine's new magic bullet - or just hype?

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