those vaccines I

I’ve been meaning for some time now to dive deep into the COVID vaccine literature and produce something intelligible for this blog. The process would help me understand as well. I’ve done a little, but have quite a ways to go before I. can say I understand the whole picture. But today, I answered a question from an old friend which made me realize I have learned something worth sharing already.

Wang (a.k.a.Ken Rambow) was the ace rocker of our class now builds beautiful custom guitars, He wrote me this morning with the following:

Hey Bob. I would like to seek your opinion on something. Some people are concerned about the vaccine because as it involves the RNA. Should I be concerned? Not sure you profess to be an expert on this but I bet you know more than than some, including me!

To which I responded:

Hey Wang

I may not be as much the expert on viruses as you are with guitars (can’t build one from scratch), but I’ll bet we’re on the same relative tier.  After undergrad at U of M while I was waiting to see if I’d get into med school, I went to grad school in microbiology for a year and got a masters.  Beside the classwork which included a couple courses focusing on viruses, I did research in 2 labs looking at different viruses, which were hot then as it was thought they might cause cancer and degenerative brain diseases.  I spent time in 2 more virology labs, one in med school and another as a rheumatology fellow.  I sucked at bench research, so I never published anything, but did learn the big words along the way, which has served me well over the past year.  I met Kathy as a collaborator on a project a Michigan, so it wasn’t all for naught. 

The vaccines are very interesting, and I keep meaning to dive into the topic completely and produce something for my blog, but that will have to wait, as some other people are expecting me to help them finish up a manuscript over the next 2 weeks.  But these vaccines are not the ones we knew as kids and young adults, when they either ground up the critter they wanted to protect you from and injected it or else somehow disabled the bugger and injected into you live but it didn’t make you sick.

The molecular biologists devised these RNA vaccines several years ago and have been dying for a chance to use them on a large scale.  Coronavirus is an RNA virus.  Your genes are DNA, which must be transcribed into RNA to be translated on ribosomes to make proteins.  The virus skips that first step, injects RNA into your cells and goes to town using your own ribosomes.   There is one component of Mr. corona that is critical to its ability to wreak havoc: the spike protein.  You’ve seen many pictures of it.  This protein binds to the ACE2 receptor on lung cells, enters those cells, and goes to town.  Just injecting you with spike protein won’t protect you from corona, as it elicits mainly antibodies, which the spike protein can co-opt by pretending to be a resting place for those antibodies, but that’s another story.  The lab jocks, with all their tools to manipulate DNA and RNA, have replicated the portion of the RNA gene of the coronavirus that makes spike protein.  They’ve encapsulated it in little packets (nanoparticles) made of polyethylene glycol (ethylene glycol = antifreeze), which is what gets injected.  The stuff is very unstable, hence all the dry ice.  Once injected, it finds some friendly cells, latches onto their ribosomes, and starts cranking out spike protein.  Since this is recognized as foreign by your immune system, all arms of the immune system respond (not just the antibody producing cells).   The RNA eventually gets degraded (they say), so the spike protein production peters out.  The second shot gooses it up again.  So, it’s very effective.  Pfizer will make a killing (did you know they were making it in the old Upjohn plant on Portage?).  My worry is what happens from mucking with this basic stuff of life?  I guess I’ve seen Jurassic Park too many times.  All human cells contain a little bit of reverse transcriptase, which takes RNA and makes DNA, which can then, potentially, integrate into your own genes.  Vaccines coming down the pike employ different mechanisms, including one which takes an adenovirus bearing the spike protein onto its own DNA chromosome, which infects your cells, where I think the spike protein gene actually does integrate into your own genes so it can crank out spike protein.  Need to read more about that.

Bottom line is these things are wonderful and scary at the same time, barring Bill Gates’ bots and the luciferase.  If you’re in a situation where you’re going to be encountering a lot of people that might be infected with COVID, like a hospital ER, maybe it’s worth getting.  Kathy and I intend to stay as far away from them as possible, unless having had it becomes some sort of requirement to travel.   Remember how Prof. Carlin taught you there are more ways to protect yourself

Stay well


Published by rike52

I retired from the Rheumatology division of Michigan Medicine end of June '19 after 36 years there. Upon hitting Ann Arbor for the second time (I went to school here) it took me almost 8 months to meet Kathy, 17 months to buy her a house (on Harbal, where we still live), and 37 months to marry her. Kids never came, but we've been blessed with a crowd of colleagues, friends, neighbors and family that continues to grow. Lots of them are going to show up in this log eventually. Stay tuned.

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