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Scientists believe llama antibodies help in Covid-19 treatment

CAPE TOWN – Researchers studying Covid-19 from the University of California believe they may have discovered useful antibodies in llamas.

As the global race for the Covid-19 vaccine continues, researcher look to learn more about the virus and how else we can treat it with Northern California scientists discovering the unique antibodies found in llamas may be beneficial in fighting SARS-CoV-2.

Like all mammals, llamas have antibodies which protect them from viruses but researchers found they are a quite unique discovering what is called nanobodies which is miniature stature allowing these antibodies to bind to proteins on the outside of the virus disrupting the binding process and essentially preventing it from infecting healthy cells.

“It binds to the virus’ spike protein with an unmatched affinity — we’ve never seen anything like this in my lab before,” said Peter Walter, a molecular biologist and biochemist who is part of the team of researchers, “It was absolutely beautiful to see.”

With the University of California, San Fransisco (UCSF), discovering these unique antibodies as a potential Covid-19 treatment, the team went on to engineer a synthetic compound inspired by the llama’s nanobodies called ‘AeroNabs’ and with further testing discovered these nanobodies was able to render SARS-CoV-2 incapable of binding to receptors found in the airways even after a week and that the compound remained functional even after exposure to heat, freeze-dried and even aerosolised, allowing the compound to be applied in the form of a spray.

Picture: Unsplash

“We have this period where an inhalable drug that can catch the virus before it ever enters the cells could provide a bridge or a stopgap measure to help until an effective vaccine can provide a long-term solution,” Walter said, which could potentially replace the need for personal protective equipment too.

While the UCSF teams findings look promising further testing and developments are required with the group recently discovering a method in which to increase the potency of these nanobodies by 200,000 times engineering a ‘molecular chain’ which joins three nanobodies together.


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