Coronaviruses range from colds to more severe infections such as SARS (SARS-CoV) and MERS (MERS-CoV) and the current Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2). To date, there is no FDA-approved vaccine for the prevention of coronavirus infections. Both have FDA emergency clearances.
Two of the Covid-19 vaccines available in the United States use messenger RNA technology to prevent or reduce symptoms of Covid-19 infection. This mRNA vaccine technology is new; The consequences of altered DNA, if any, are unknown. However, others, including the CDC, said the virus would not interact with DNA.
Other scientists believe that mRNA vaccines can penetrate DNA and change it permanently. Like DNA vaccines, RNA vaccines use part of the virus’ genetic code to get the immune system to respond.
An article that is currently in the preprint (not yet peer-reviewed) describes a laboratory study in which some pieces of Covid-19 RNA were converted into DNA and then integrated into human chromosomes.
Medical Daily spoke to lead author Dr. med. Rudolf Jaenisch. A professor of biology at MIT, Dr. Jaenisch, conducted the first experiment that demonstrated that genetic defects in rodents can be corrected. He is currently working on Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Autism, and human cancer. He has received numerous awards for his work, including the Wolf Prize for Medicine.
MD: Does your recent study show that the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines can damage DNA in humans?
Dr. Jaenisch: No real signs of damage. The mRNA can integrate with DNA and possibly be expressed, but there is no direct evidence of this.
MD: If the mRNA vaccines can integrate into human DNA, what could that mean for the future?
Dr. Jaenisch: It will be a breakthrough technology. It will change the way diseases are treated.
MD: How will mRNA or DNA vaccines change treatment?
Dr. Jaenisch: These mRNA Covid-19 vaccines are the first to show the safety and effectiveness of this type of therapy. If there is enough evidence that this technology is safe and effective, it has great potential for future therapies to treat many diseases.
The Jaenisch Laboratory’s work could also explain why patients who have recovered from Covid-19 still test positive for the disease months later, according to an ABC news report. If the virus modifies these patients’ DNA, its genetic information could still be active. The Jaenisch laboratory found that the virus used an enzyme called LINE-1 to return to the cell to replicate. LINE-1 is readily available in the human genome.
Regarding whether mRNA vaccines could alter DNA, Dr. Jaenisch this for a good cause. He also believes that this new technology will lead the way to breakthrough treatments for many diseases that affect humans. Since Dr. Jaenisch has studied DNA in cancer and neurological diseases for decades, what he thinks is likely is probably more than most of us know.
Yvonne Stolworthy MSN, RN graduated from Nursing School in 1984 and spent many years in intensive care and as an educator in a variety of settings including clinical trials.