Antibodies from llamas may help treat COVID-19. VCG
While the situation may be improving, much of the world is still under the shadow of COVID-19 and its associated containment measures. But according to a study published in the scientific journal Cell, an unlikely friend could help defeat the virus.
Known for their long legs and beautiful eyelashes, llamas – specifically their antibodies – are believed to play an important role in the fight against the virus.
拥有大长腿和长睫毛的美洲驼 —— 尤其是它们身上的抗体 —— 被认为将在抗“疫”战斗中发挥重要作用。
Having experimented with antibodies from a llama called Winter years ago, a small lab at Ghent University in Belgium had a eureka moment earlier this year. They found that llama antibodies were able to neutralize both the MERS and SARS viruses – two strains of the coronavirus that caused previous outbreaks in 2012 and 2003, respectively.
Done in cooperation with the University of Texas, US, studies showed their effectiveness against COVID-19.
Jason McLellan, from the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of the study, said in a statement, “This is one of the first antibodies known to neutralize SARS-CoV-2.”
Antibodies are like your body’s defense system. Similar to tiny soldiers, they seek foreign substances that invade your body and destroy them before they can spread. But what makes llama antibodies so special is their small size, which enables them to better fight the virus by binding to its spikes more easily.
Speaking to the New York Times, PhD student Daniel Wrapp explained, “The binding is able to prevent attachment and entry, which effectively neutralizes the virus.”
The encouraging results have prompted rapid development and testing of the antibodies so that they can be tested on humans as soon as possible. However, the study’s co-author, Xavier Saelens, from Ghent University noted that “there is still a lot of work to do to bring this into the clinic”.
But he added that “if it works, llama Winter deserves a statue”.