A molecule made when DNA, a double helix molecule, is copied or transcribed into a single helix which is the RNA molecule. The RNA has a crucial job which is to carry DNA instructions, stored in its genetic code on how to build new proteins, from the nucleus to other parts of the cell where the proteins are manufactured.
There are three forms of RNA:
- Ribosomal RNA (rRNA) helps make up the ribosome which is the protein factory of the cell.
- Messenger RNA (mRNA) carries the blueprint (protein building instructions) copied from the cell’s original DNA to the ribosomes.
- Transfer RNA (tRNA) brings amino acids (raw material for building proteins) to the ribosome.
The novel coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus. This means its genetic material is stored directly in the RNA, without the need for translating DNA into RNA.
RNA is less stable and more prone to mutation than DNA, so RNA viruses generally change and evolve faster. This sometimes allows RNA viruses to jump from species to species (notable recent examples include the avian flu and swine flu, which jumped to humans from birds and pigs, respectively).