Not all coronavirus vaccines use mRNA or DNA. Some of them contain ready-made spike proteins that are made using synthetic biology. They’re grotesquely unnatural and laced with weird adjuvants that most people have never heard of. The way the artificial proteins are made reveals the short cuts being taken with the mRNA/DNA versions and why calling them vaccines is the equivalent to saying a home-brew kit is the same as a glass of wine.
Bringing the DNA to life
To make a protein vaccine you need a bunch of cells and a bioreactor to put them in. DNA is injected into the cells and activated with a spark of electric, in a process known as electroporation. The cells are kept alive by feeding them so they replicate or grow, and at the same time they pump out the proteins that were encoded into the DNA. Valneva is producing a coronavirus vaccine using cells that came from the kidney of an African green monkey, whilst others are using insect cells. Other proteins are grown in yeast cells, and there’s a flu vaccine grown in cells from the larvae of a moth. The DNA from any of these cells can end up in the vaccine.
How to Make a Protein Vaccine
- Customize the genetic sequence of the protein using a bioinformatics computer program such as DNASTAR.
- Create DNA versions of the virus protein. (This often involves using RT-PCR to amplify the required sequences, then using E. coli and a bacteriophage to transcribe them.)
- Combine the DNA with a different kind of virus to create a hybrid.
- Use this hybrid virus to infect a cell line in a bioreactor (basically a big metal vat).
- Feed the cells with a special broth, e.g. salts, vitamins, sugars, amino acids and serum from a baby cow.
- After a few days, harvest and purify the proteins, mix them with adjuvants and other ingredients, then Wang them all together and call it a vaccine.
Using people as vaccine-factories
Genetic vaccines containing DNA or mRNA miss out the last few steps of this production process. Instead of using cells in a bioreactor to manufacture proteins, they use the cells of the human body. This means the substance being injected only becomes vaccine-like once the host has done the work and produced whichever protein it’s encoded with. It saves manufacturers a huge amount of time and money by turning people into walking-talking vaccine-factories that do the job for them. The production of the vaccine only occurs if the body translates the genetic sequences, so there’s no way to know what dose anybody’s getting, because some people may translate more of the sequences and therefore make more proteins!