Tuesday, December 29, 2020 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Reverse Engineering the Source Code of the BioNTech/Pfizer SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine

Bert Hubert (tweet, via Max Seelemann):

The BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine has this digital code at its heart. It is 4284 characters long, so it would fit in a bunch of tweets. At the very beginning of the vaccine production process, someone uploaded this code to a DNA printer (yes), which then converted the bytes on disk to actual DNA molecules.

[…]

Our body runs a powerful antivirus system (“the original one”). For this reason, cells are extremely unenthusiastic about foreign RNA and try very hard to destroy it before it does anything.

This is somewhat of a problem for our vaccine - it needs to sneak past our immune system. Over many years of experimentation, it was found that if the U in RNA is replaced by a slightly modified molecule, our immune system loses interest. For real.

So in the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, every U has been replaced by 1-methyl-3’-pseudouridylyl, denoted by Ψ. The really clever bit is that although this replacement Ψ placates (calms) our immune system, it is accepted as a normal U by relevant parts of the cell.

1 Comment

Fascinating. Thanks!

This article describes how pseudouridylyl was discovered: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/mrna-coronavirus-vaccine-pfizer-biontech

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