Coronavirus they range from the common cold to more serious infections such as SARS (SARS-CoV) and MERS (MERS-CoV) and the current Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2). There is still no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent coronavirus infections. Both have FDA emergency use authorization.
Two of the Covid-19 vaccines available in the United States use messenger RNA technology to prevent or reduce the symptoms of Covid-19 infection. This mRNA vaccine technology is new; the consequences of altered DNA, if any, are unknown. Despite this, others including the CDC said the virus would not interact with DNA.
Other scientists believe that mRNA vaccines can enter and permanently alter DNA. Like DNA vaccines, RNA vaccines use part of the virus’s genetic code to get the immune system to respond.
An article currently in prepress (not yet peer-reviewed) discusses a laboratory study in which some pieces of Covid-19 RNA were turned into DNA and then integrated into human chromosomes.
Medical Daily spoke with lead author Rudolf Jaenisch, MD. Professor of Biology at MIT, Dr. Jaenisch, performed the first experiment demonstrating that genetic defects in rodents could be corrected. It currently is work on Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, autism, and cancer in humans. He has won numerous awards for his work, including the Wolf Prize in Medicine.
MD: Does your recent study indicate that Covid-19 mRNA vaccines can damage DNA in humans?
Dr. Jaenisch: There is really no evidence of damage. MRNA can be integrated into DNA and possibly expressed, but there is no direct evidence.
MD: If mRNA vaccines can be integrated into human DNA, what could this mean for the future?
Dr. Jaenisch: It will be an innovative technology. It will change the way diseases are treated.
MD: How will mRNA or DNA vaccine treatments change?
Dr. Jaenisch: These Covid-19 mRNA vaccines are the first to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of this type of therapy. If there is enough evidence that this technology is safe and effective, this has enormous potential for future therapies to treat many diseases.
The work of the Jaenisch laboratory could also explain why patients who have recovered from Covid-19 still test positive for the disease, even months later, according to a ABC News report. If the virus modified the DNA of these patients, their genetic information could still be active. Jaenisch’s lab 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.
As for whether mRNA vaccines could change DNA, Dr. Jaenisch believes it could be a good thing. He also believes that this new technology will be the path to innovative treatments for many diseases that affect people. Since Dr. Jaenisch has been studying DNA in cancer and neurological diseases for decades, it is likely that what he believes is more than most of us know.
Yvonne Stolworthy MSN, RN graduated from nursing school in 1984 and has spent many years in critical care and as an educator in a variety of settings, including clinical trials.