As promised, I have much more to say about the wonderful Vatican conference from 2 weeks ago (International Vatican Conference on Health). As many expected, a major topic of this council on health was the current COVID-19 pandemic: what we did well, what we did poorly, and how we can be better prepared in the future. One of the conversations where I learned the most was an interview with Stéphane Bancel, the CEO of Moderna.
He spoke about the potential of messenger RNA technology for both vaccines and other medicines. Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are mRNA vaccines, but what is mRNA?
Messenger RNA is a single strand of RNA that can be found in the cytoplasm of a cell, not the nucleus where DNA is housed. This mRNA is a set of instructions. A ribosome will come along, attach to it, and move along the mRNA. For every three bases of the mRNA, the ribosome makes a single amino acid. As it moves farther along the mRNA, it creates a long chain of amino acids that is called a protein. The message of the mRNA, the specific bases, determines what protein is produced.
How does this translate into a vaccine? Once Chinese scientists were able to sequence the genome of the virus, other scientists around the world were able to know the structure of it. They knew that it was coated in these spike proteins. Using previously used mRNA technology, they simply had to make mRNA where the message would create that specific protein. Then that mRNA was ready to be injected into our bodies. It was such a simple task of just finding out the correct message that, once they had the genome, it took Moderna only TWO DAYS to create the vaccine!!
This vaccine is then injected into the muscle of your upper arm. Once in your muscle cells, your body’s own ribosomes read that specific message and create the exact spike protein that is normally found on the virus. Your body’s immune system recognizes this specific protein as foreign and immediately starts creating antibodies to fight them. THEN, if at any later time your body ever encounters the real virus, your body’s immune system already has antibodies and can kill the virus before it ever does any damage.
It is truly amazing to me that all they needed was the right message. Once they knew what message to send, it took no time and all! Science so rarely is that simple and fast. Finding this out during the interview blew my mind.
This past Sunday, most parishes in the U.S. celebrated the feast of the Ascension. This is the day where Jesus ascended into heaven to sit on his throne.
This is the day that he left the apostles on the earth to spread the gospel. If Jesus hadn’t left, they would have all stayed together with Him. They wouldn’t have been able to spread the good news to all corners of the earth. So what I’m saying is… they had a message to deliver, and they were sent out with a specific purpose. (sounds like mRNA)
Just like the apostles, we too are called to go out into the world and share this message. All of us are called to share the good news, and yet, we all have unique messages to share. It is unique based on our gifts, unique based on our life experiences, but all centered around the goodness of our Lord.
For the mRNA Covid vaccine, its creators can very clearly tell you the exact message that it is sent with and what its purpose is. Our creator can tell us our purpose and the message we are to share too if we listen. For example, in my life I’m called to share the gospel, but more specifically I have come to understand that my message is the beautiful partnership between faith and science. I could choose to keep that good news to myself, but I don’t. I spend every day sharing that truth with as many people as possible. This is my message and my purpose. It is important that we each know ours.
This week I invite you to pray to our Lord and ask Him what is the message that YOU are to share? How is it unique? How are you to share it? With friends? With coworkers? Through service? Through eloquent speech? You have been sent on a mission, but you have to know what the message is. I hope that this week you will take the time to listen to God as he tells you your message that you are to share with the world.