“The authors sought to answer how a PCR test is able to detect segments of viral RNA when the virus is presumably absent from a person’s body. They hypothesized that somehow segments of the viral RNA were being copied into DNA and then integrated permanently into the DNA of somatic cells”
In my previous blog, “Will an RNA Vaccine Permanently Alter My DNA?”, I laid out several molecular pathways that would potentially enable the RNA in an mRNA vaccine to be copied and permanently integrated into our DNA. I was absolutely not surprised to find that the majority of people claimed that this prospect was impossible; in fact, I was expecting this response – partly because most people don’t possess a deep enough understanding of molecular biology, and partly because of other implicit biases.
After all, we’ve been told in no uncertain terms that it would be impossible for the mRNA in a vaccine to become integrated into our DNA, simply because “RNA doesn’t work that way.” Well, this current research which was released not too long after my original article demonstrates that yes, indeed, “RNA does work that way”. In my original article, I spelled out this exact molecular pathway.
Specifically, a new study by MIT and Harvard scientists demonstrates that segments of the RNA from the coronavirus itself are most likely becoming a permanent fixture in human DNA. (study linked below). This was once thought near impossible, for the same reasons which are presented to assure us that an RNA vaccine could accomplish no such feat. Against the tides of current biological dogma, these researchers found that the genetic segments of this RNA virus are more than likely making their way into our genome. They also found that the exact pathway that I laid out in in my original article is more than likely the pathway being used (retrotransposon, and in particular a LINE-1 element) for this retro-integration to occur.
And, unlike my previous blog where I hypothesize that such an occurrence would be extremely rare (mainly because I was attempting to temper expectations more conservatively due to the lack of empirical evidence), it appears that this integration of viral RNA segments into our DNA is not as rare as I initially hypothesized. It’s difficult for me to put a number on the probability due to data limitations present in the paper, but based on the frequency they were able to measure this phenomenon in both petri dishes and COVID patients, the probability is much greater than I initially anticipated. Due to this current research, I now place this risk as a more probable event than my original estimation.
To be fair, this study didn’t show that the RNA from the current vaccines is being integrated into our DNA. However, they did show, quite convincingly, that there exists a viable cellular pathway whereby snippets of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA could become integrated into our genomic DNA. In my opinion, more research is needed to both corroborate these findings, and to close some gaps.
That being said, this data can be used to make a conjecture as to whether the RNA present in an RNA vaccine could potentially alter human DNA. This is because an mRNA vaccine consists of snippets of the viral RNA from the genome of SARS-CoV-2; in particular, the current mRNA vaccines harbor stabilized mRNA which encodes the Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, which is the protein that enables the virus to bind to cell-surface receptors and infect our cells.
This was thought near impossible. Based on this ground-breaking study, I would hope that the highly presumptuous claim that such a scenario is impossible will find its way to the trash bin labeled: “Things We Were Absolutely and Unequivocally Certain Couldn’t Happen Which Actually Happened”; although, I have a suspicious feeling that the importance of this study will be minimized in quick order with reports from experts who attempt to poke holes in their work. It’s important to add that this paper is a pre-print that is not peer-reviewed yet; but I went through all of the data, methods, and results, and I see very little wrong with the paper, and some gaps that need closing- but, at least from the standpoint of being able to answer the question: can RNA from the coronavirus use existing cellular pathways to integrate permanently into our DNA? From that perspective, their paper is rock-solid. Also, please take note that these are respected scientists from MIT and Harvard.
Quoting from their paper:
“In support of this hypothesis, we found chimeric transcripts consisting of viral fused to cellular sequences in published data sets of SARS-CoV-2 infected cultured cells and primary cells of patients, consistent with the transcription of viral sequences integrated into the genome. To experimentally corroborate the possibility of viral retro-integration, we describe evidence that SARS-CoV-2 RNAs can be reverse transcribed in human cells by reverse transcriptase (RT) from LINE-1 elements or by HIV-1 RT, and that these DNA sequences can be integrated into the cell genome and subsequently be transcribed. Human endogenous LINE-1 expression was induced upon SARS-CoV-2 infection or by cytokine exposure in cultured cells, suggesting a molecular mechanism for SARS-CoV-2 retro-integration in patients. This novel feature of SARS-CoV-2 infection may explain why patients can continue to produce viral RNA after recovery and suggests a new aspect of RNA virus replication.”
Why did these researchers bother to investigate whether viral RNA could become hardwired into our genomic DNA? It turns out their motive had nothing to do with mRNA vaccines.