The coronavirus pandemic has brought on multiple challenges for the healthcare industry, dominating headlines throughout 2020, and while it has had many devastating impacts and has changed people’s way of life across the globe. To combat COVID-19 numerous medical advances have been made to understand the virus and prevent its spread.
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Now we can have a look at the most significant advances made during the pandemic.
One of the most important developments since the coronavirus outbreak is the development of the vaccine, which makes use of a unique technology which was previously not used. The technology used to develop thePfizer vaccine could be used to combat illnesses such as cancer and other infectious diseases similar to Covid-19, as stated by leading health experts, raising hopes that humanity can take a major scientific leap forward as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic.
The developments made in diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccine manufacturing and medical telecommunications are expected to leave a transformational impact that will outlast the pandemic, experts say.
RNA technology in Pfizer/BioNTech
The technology behind the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is seen as a notable game-changer. The jab makes uses of genetic material called RNA which, when injected into human muscle cells, delivers a series of instructions to produce the “spike” protein found on the surface of Sars-Cov-2.
Activation of the immune system by vaccine
The body cells recognize Sars-Cov-2 as foreign invaders within the body, the immune system springs into action to produce the necessary antibodies andT cells. This process leaves behind a protective memory that enables the body to build up immunity against the coronavirus.
Potential of using RNA technology of Pfizer in combating cancer
The apparent success of the vaccine, which is said to be 90 per cent effective in preventing the disease, demonstrates that this RNA platform could be used in a similar way in cancer treatments.
Research into this treatment has been ongoing for a number of years and a Nature paper published in August showed that an RNA vaccine was capable of training the immune system in patients with advanced melanoma to tackle cancerous cells.
The adaptability of the RNA technology meant it could be tweaked and tailored to produce a vaccine candidate for virtually any disease – including unknown future ones. The process for manufacturing doses of an RNA vaccine is also much simpler compared with conventional technologies.
You can see the latest updates on healthcare workers tackling the coronavirus on World Health Organization website.
RNA technology disadvantage
Although well-suited for provoking an immune response against infections, questions have been raised over the technology’s suitability in treating sick people, because of the fact that the RNA degrades once injected into human cells. It is active for some time but then it decomposes, which essentially stops the production of the proteins needed to tackle whatever illness the body is facing.
Manufacturing of vaccine on a massive scale
Nonetheless, the huge leaps in vaccine technology that have been taken throughout 2020 have also forced scientists to revolutionize the ways they produce and distribute large quantities of doses. Professor Harris Makatsoris, from King’s College London, leads a team that has developed a device they call a “factory in a box” which could provide a new way to manufacture the next generation of vaccines on a massive scale. Due to the unparalleled demands of the coronavirus pandemic, it is likely that throughout 2021, new scientific breakthroughs will be made to keep up with the rapidly mutating virus. Till then, remember to stay at home and stay safe!