Please help me understand why RNA vaccines do not "change your RNA"

That’s interesting, does foreign mRNA usually penetrate the cell membrane? Either to leave the bacteria/microorganism it came from or to enter the human cell.

~Max

My understanding is that mRNA is all a bunch of independent single-use strands floating about rather than a single store. The vaccine doesn’t mess with any mRNA already floating around in your cell, it just adds another independent strand of the stuff. The collection of mRNA floating around your cell is “your” RNA, in the same way that the messages sitting in my outbox/sent messages folder are “my” messages.

~Max

RNA viruses definitely gets their RNA into cells, if the immune system doesn’t destroy the viruses before they can. So if you’re infected with an RNA virus, like SARS-Cov-2 as an example, even though individual strands of virus RNA will degrade fairly quickly, there will be a constantly refreshed supply of new virus RNA in infected cells, until the virus is eliminated.

Is SARS-Cov-2 an RNA virus? I thought the only RNA viruses were the retroviruses (which, incidentally, do change your DNA, and hence your subsequent RNA).

COVID-19 is an RNA virus and it is not a retrovirus. The RNA stays outside the nucleus and simply hijacks the cell’s “machinery”, forcing it to pump out copies of the virus.

RNA doesn’t last long but the virus codes for RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (make RNA copies of RNA) so there’s always a huge pool of viral DNA in an infected cell. It’s a bit like having millions of very small tapeworms: they use parts of you to make more of them.

The vast majority of human pathogenic viruses are RNA viruses, and all retroviruses are RNA Group VI (single-stranded RNA reverse transcribing viruses that replicate by insertion into the host DNA which acts as the intermediate genome for viral replication) Retroviridae. The most common human pathogenic DNA viruses are in Adenoviridae, Herpesviridae, Papillomaviridae, and of course the Poxviridae families.

Orthomyxoviridae (containing the influenza viruses), Orthocoronavirinae (the coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-2), and most other respiratory and gastrointestinal viruses are RNA viruses of various types, although most of them are not retroviruses and have no direct impact upon the nuclear genome whatsoever. Although it is technically correct that retroviruses “change your DNA” in the sense that they insert themselves into the nuclear genome, they do not go around altering other parts of the genome. What they can do is cause changes in gene expression and cellular regulation, leading to cellular dysfunction such as uncontrolled growth (cancer), of autoimmune system disorders (AIDS), and many other problems. However, most viruses, even retroviruses, are benign in the host, and in fact a large portion of the human genome is composed of endogenous retroviruses; viruses that have incorporated themselves into human and predecessor genomes, presumably because they provide some significant competitive fitness.

One other thing, and it is just a pedantic nitpick because it is so widely misused, even by biologists, but “DNA” and “genome” are not synonymous. The genome is the term for the abstract collection of all of your genes, which are primarily instructions for coding proteins and regulating transcription operations. DNA is the type of molecule that all living organisms use to store these instructions, which are packaged in the chromosome, which is a structure that protects and regulates access to sections of the DNA within it. When companies advertise that some quality is “in our DNA!” it drives me up the fucking wall, because not only have they co-opted a specific technical term as meaningless corporate buzzspeak but they aren’t even using it correctly. It is almost as aggravating as reading about the “beating heart of the galaxy” or “at this moment in time”. Semantics rant over.

Stranger

Only mRNA carries the message. Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) is a part of the ribosome that imparts structure and enzymatic activity. It neither carries nor reads the message. Specific transfer RNAs (tRNAs) carry a certain bit of the protein (amino acids) to be put in growing protein chain. The mRNA tells which tRNAs should come over to the ribosome and bring their special building block of protein.

Both rRNA and tRNA are coded in the DNA of their respective genes. As stated by others, mRNA vaccines cannot change the DNA. I suppose you could make an mRNA vaccine that would temporarily express different tRNAs but, just like mRNA that codes for the spike protein, these would not be permanent. Only your DNA is permanent. AND that vaccine would have to be designed to specifically alter your rRNA or tRNA; it wouldn’t just mistakenly be found in a covid vaccine like, “whoops, how did that completely different message for some tRNA get in there?”

Here’s a nice video of the central dogma of biology made for PBS by Drew Barry at WEHI.tv
Transcription and Translation - YouTube

So, it would be correct to say that “your mRNA” cannot be changed, right? It can be added to (like with the vaccines) but not changed.

There is a process known as RNA editing, but it is a highly-regulated process that is done by the cell itself. There is no way a vaccine could edit RNA. There is a type of RNA-editing crispr technique. Again, that would require someone to specifically design it to do that. It wouldn’t just slip in a covid vaccine by accident.

To summarize (and maybe clear up lingering misperceptions):

The mRNA from mRNA Covid vaccines cannot enter the nucleus of your cells and thus cannot alter your DNA. It can’t alter your native RNA either.

RNA typically lasts on the order of minutes to hours before it is degraded, maybe a few days at best. There is no functional foreign or native RNA drifting around the human body for months. If it did, we might well have more stimulatory and long-lasting mRNA vaccines, but likely serious problems as well, relating to infections and normal bodily functions.

There continues to be a dispute over whether a human native reverse transcriptase (some exists for specialized normal functions) could allow any coronavirus including SARS-CoV-2 to integrate bits of viral RNA into the human genome; test tube studies are regarded as inconclusive. There’s zero evidence of this happening with a vaccine.

The amount of pseudoscientific stupidity emanating from Florida is so massive, it can probably be detected on instruments aboard the International Space Station.

References:

https://www.chop.edu/news/news-views-3-questions-you-will-get-about-new-mrna-vaccines

So, just ten hours after I receive my vaccine, there is no longer any sign of the vaccine in my body? Where does it go?

As we continue to discuss/debate vaccine mandates, a question has been knocking around my head that I think is related to the OP question. The COVID vaccine card is hardly a secure document. Fraudulently reproducing it is quite simple. Therefore, it is not conclusive proof that the person named has received the vaccine. So, at some point after receiving the vaccine (or any mRNA vaccine), is there a test or any way to independently determine that the person in question has, in fact, received the vaccine?

In 10 hours 1/2 is gone. In 20, 3/4, in 30 7/8. (Ish.) The mRNA is digested by enzymes.

You can test to see if their body is producing antibodies that attach to the spike protein. I don’t know if there are tests that can tell the difference between getting those antibodies from having been vaccinated and getting them from having contracted the virus.

That is a foregone conclusion independent of this pandemic.

As for the mRNA vaccines being transcribed into the chromosomal (or other) DNA sequences (somatic integration) or into mRNA from the host chromosomes (fusion transcript), there is just no way. The vaccines use an inert lipid a nanoparticle that carries only a select section of the viral genome (specifically, the spike protein) so there is just no function to integrate it into any other gene sequence. It is remotely plausible that the SARS-CoV-2 might be able to utilize the host reverse transcriptase but there is no real evidence of it, and claims of observed chimeric retrotranscription in SARS-CoV-2 PCR datasets are more likely to be contamination during library preparation rather than evidence of in vivo somatic integration into the host genome.

RNA breaks down naturally (the single stranded nature and lack of any histone structure make it far less robust than DNA) although it will take a few days for the majority of the RNA strands to break down, and you can expect to have fragments to circulate (harmlessly) for weeks. The lipid nanoparticles (probably) break down even faster and are used as building blocks for ordinary lipids. (There has been some concern about the potential for simulating allergic responses but they break down so quickly even under just normal environmental conditions that it seems unlikely, and anyway the environment is full of persistent polymer nanoparticles that vastly outnumber a small dose of vaccine.). The spike protein that is produced as an antigen which stimulates the production of lymphocytes as the primary immune response will continue to persist for many weeks or even months, although it too will break down even as the immune system develops ‘memory’ T-cells that will enable a rapid the immune response if a similar antigen is experienced.

Not with any assurance, especially if it has been some months from last injection. There are government and clinical databases that maintain records if you’ve been vaccinated through certain symptoms but of course it would be relatively easy to pick someone with a similar name or have someone else get vaccinated in your place, if you were so inclined to avoid vaccination. Currently, there isn’t even a clinical test to assess the effectiveness of vaccination over time; that is being evaluated purely from epidemiological data of ‘breakthrough’ infections, hence why there is such a wild variance in estimates and opinions about if, when, and who needs vaccinate ‘boosters’. (My personal opinion is that the mRNA vaccines were probably always three shot regimes and may have greater longevity if there was a greater interval between the first and second shots but the vaccination schedule was determined at least in part by the need to complete the trials in an expedient fashion.) But there is really no way to clinically test if anyone has received any vaccine, and the persistence of IgM and other antibodies can vary wildly from individual to individual even with a comparable effective immune response.

Stranger

I have nothing to add to this thread about how the vaccine works or how the cells protein machine works but I have one insight:

Asking a question is hard! If you ask from en expert a question there’s the possibilty that the answer is not what you want inversly to the knowledge you have of the subject.

That’s why doctors when asked about the vaccine are answering in general. You need to ask them how does this specific mRNA vaccine work to get the right answer, but if you don’t even know what mRNA is you cannot ask the question.

Can’t we measure immune response directly with a blood test? Not just antigen levels or viral DNA, but like a test on the lymphocytes.

~Max

You can run various types of immunoassay; however, immunoglobulins (antibodies) in the blood will decrease with time if there are no antigens to stimulate immune response to a point that they may not even be detectable by a standard ELISA assay.

Stranger

(We’re getting off-topic, but…)

So in the case where your COVID antibody count is undetectable (<1.0 ng/mL I think), are you saying there is still capacity for significant adaptive immune response? Can we measure lymphocyte proliferation instead of just the number of antibodies that stick?

~Max

Here is a Kurzgesagt video on how your immune system works for a bacterial infection. They’ve promised to cover viral but haven’t delivered yet.

Is it that obvious that I don’t know what I’m talking about?

I mean I know of some concepts like innate vs adaptive immune response, memory T and B cells, antibodies and antigens…

~Max

I get dizzy myself. It’s like trying to keep track of a soap opera you watch once a month.

Researchers will test for different types of lymphocytes, including the plasma cells that pump out antibodies. They can isolate, identify, and count them based on specific cell surface markers. As far as I know, this is not generally available outside research.