Don’t Shoot the Messenger

In a previous post, the Machine pontificated on the illogic of eating hot dogs while opting not to get a vaccine. Long story short, hot dogs contain a laundry list of often-mysterious ingredients that the COVID vaccine does not, while the COVID vaccine contains precisely one ingredient that hot dogs do not: messenger RNA. And come to think of it, given that there may accidentally be something in a hot dog that used to be alive, there may even be tiny fragments of messenger RNA in that too. Boom.

But what exactly is messenger RNA (mRNA)? If you’re like me and learned about it in high school, and if you’re also like me and completely forgot all about it, please allow this blog post to serve as a quick recap.

Let’s start with the beginning of everything: deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the incredible molecule that captures the essence of each and every living thing on Earth. DNA is constructed of two long strands of atoms, wrapped around each other to form a double helix, basically a tiny spiral staircase. Each step in the staircase links two nucleotides (specific combinations of atoms) together. These are like letters in a long set of instructions. Each block of instructions encodes how to build a certain protein, basically a piece of you. Together, these proteins form the architecture of our bodies, from cells all the way on up to major organs, including the skin that wraps it all together into what sci-fi extraterrestrials call a meatbag.

But DNA is trapped inside the nucleus, a tiny fortress containing the operations center of every cell in your body. So how the hell do the instructions on DNA turn into the rest of the cells and organs in our bodies? The answer is mRNA. RNA – ribonucleic acid – is a less sophisticated type of molecule than DNA, and likely was its ancestor as life came into being on Earth a few billion years ago. Despite having ceded the mastery of genetics to DNA, RNA still plays critical roles in the day to day operation of our cells. mRNA has a very specific and critical job – carry the genetic instructions for making proteins from the nuclear fortress into the “factory” portion of the cell. Once there, mRNA works with little machines called ribosomes (also made of RNA) to bind amino acids into the protein the mRNA was sent to generate. The lifetime of a molecule of mRNA can be anywhere from seconds to days, after which it breaks down and becomes available for the next generation of dedicated workers.

So there are a couple of important takeaways here so far. Our cells are constantly creating and destroying mRNA as an essential function of life. And mRNA only goes in one direction – from the nucleus to the rest of the cell. mRNA never makes it way back into the nucleus until after it’s been broken back down into little pieces that can’t do anything anymore. Whether you think this is intelligent design or just the remarkable consequences of billions of years of evolution (or both), it’s become a very secure and trustworthy process, without which we wouldn’t even be here to write or read annoying blog posts.

Okay – back to the COVID vaccine, which consists of sugar, lipids, salt, and mRNA. The mRNA in turn consists of a portion of the “spike protein” – those little things on the coronavirus that make it look like an endless mohawk. The real spike protein is nicely constructed to latch into certain receptors in our bodies, a large concentration of which are in the cells that line our airways. This is how the virus takes hold, after which it injects its own RNA, which contains the instructions for making copies of itself. By mere strength in numbers, the virus overwhelms a cell and takes over the factories for protein construction to make more viruses. Without the vaccine, and especially if you’ve never had COVID, the body doesn’t recognize the telltale signs of the virus, which means it has to learn under fire, and too often that process is not fast enough to keep up with the rapid proliferation of the virus in your cells. The purpose of the mRNA in the COVID vaccine is to tell your body how to make just enough of the spike protein that it can recognize it as a threat and essentially memorize that information in case the real virus ever attacks – giving you a much better chance of getting in front of it, and a much smaller chance of going to the hospital or dying.

There isn’t enough information in the mRNA in a COVID vaccine to instruct the takeover of your cellular factories, so you won’t get the virus from it. And once its job is done, it will break down just like any other mRNA, so it won’t ever get into your nucleus and start giving the wrong kind of orders. The simple fact that mRNA breaks down also means it isn’t going to act as any sort of “tracer” so the Government can track you. As others have more eloquently noted, worry about your cell phone instead (as you scan Facebook and Twitter for all the ways the vaccine can turn you into a zombie and eat your children).

Vaccines based on mRNA are a remarkable achievement, but they are also a beautiful illustration of how our bodies work all the way down the molecular level to protect us and keep us alive for as long as possible in a truly hostile and uncaring universe. Whoever or whatever made it all work, mRNA sustains and saves your life every single day. Hot dogs, meanwhile, take half hours at a time off your life. (not that I’m going to stop eating them)

Get the damned shot.

The picture I could have replaced a thousand words with
(Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay