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Llama Nanobodies Possible Treatment For Covid

Printed From: Pandemic Talk - Coronavirus Discussion Forum
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Printed Date: January 19 2021 at 8:10pm

Topic: Llama Nanobodies Possible Treatment For Covid
Posted By: ViQueen24
Subject: Llama Nanobodies Possible Treatment For Covid
Date Posted: November 05 2020 at 4:49pm

CBS Pittsburgh


Pitt Researchers Discover Llama ‘Nanobodies’ Are Powerful New Coronavirus Treatment

The researchers used a llama they have dubbed Wally.

By Amy WadasNovember 5, 2020 at 2:36 pmFiled Under:Amy Wadas, Coronavirus, Coronavirus In Pittsburgh, Coronavirus Outbreak In Pennsylvania: KDKA Complete Coverage, Coronavirus Pandemic, Coronavirus Treatment, COVID-19, Llamas, University Of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, UPMC

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Llamas could be the new key to helping humans fight the coronavirus.

According to the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, medical researchers have discovered a way to extract “tiny but extremely powerful SARS-CoV-2 antibody fragments from llamas.” SARS-CoV-2 is what causes COVID-19 infections.

The researchers used a llama they have dubbed Wally. He is named after the head researcher’s dog and lives on a farm in Massachusetts.

UPMC says, “These special llama antibodies, called ‘nanobodies,’ are much smaller than human antibodies and many times more effective at neutralizing the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They’re also much more stable.”

Dr. Yi Shi, Pitt assistant professor of cell biology, said, “Nature is our best inventor. The technology we developed surveys SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing nanobodies at an unprecedented scale, which allowed us to quickly discover thousands of nanobodies with unrivaled affinity and specificity.”

Researchers say they immunized Wally “with a piece of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.” About two months later, they say Wally’s immune system produced these mature nanobodies against the virus.

The researchers then worked to identify the nanobodies in Wally’s blood that most strongly bind to SARS-CoV-2.

(Source: University Of Pittsburgh)

The researchers then went to Pitt’s Center for Vaccine Research.

That’s where scientists “exposed the nanobodies to live SARS-CoV-2 virus and found that just a fraction of a nanogram could neutralize enough virus to spare a million cells from being infected.”

UPMC says “these nanobodies can sit at room temperature for six weeks. They can also “tolerate being fashioned into an inhalable mist,” which would deliver antiviral therapy straight to the lungs of the patient.

Doctors say these llama nanobodies could also be a much more affordable treatment for coronavirus.

“Nanobodies could potentially cost much less. They’re ideal for addressing the urgency and magnitude of the current crisis,” Dr. Shi said.

So when could we see this treatment become available?

“It has to be delivered safely. Phase one, two and three trials. Takes time. Can be bulked up rather quickly,” said Director of Vaccine Research Dr. Paul Duprex.

If and when it becomes available, doctors say it would likely be administered as a nasal spray, which would be delivered directly to the lungs for treatment or to prevent the virus from progressing.

“It’s really good to have multiple ways, to have multiple interventions, in development. It just takes time to get things into the pipeline to be used therapeutically,” said Dr. Duprex.

There’s still a full slate of trials for this to go through before it’s approved. Researchers say that while any vaccine can take a long time to develop, this specific drug could move a lot faster.

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Posted By: EdwinSm,
Date Posted: November 05 2020 at 10:54pm

Interesting,  I wonder if there are enough llamas around to scale this up for mass production.

Posted By: Technophobe
Date Posted: November 06 2020 at 2:40am

I'm guessing, but they may be able to 'clone' them without further llamas.  I hope so, if not there are certainly not enough llamas.


Posted By: ViQueen24
Date Posted: November 06 2020 at 8:10am

I will see if I can contact Amy Wadas and ask her.

Posted By: ksc
Date Posted: November 06 2020 at 9:39am

There were some articles about this back in may. -

A study published last week in the journal Cell found that antibodies in llamas’ blood could offer a defense against the coronavirus. In addition to larger antibodies like ours, llamas have small ones that can sneak into spaces on viral proteins that are too tiny for human antibodies, helping them to fend off the threat. The hope is that the llama antibodies could help protect humans who have not been infected.

International researchers owe their findings to a llama named Winter, a four-year-old resident of Belgium. Her antibodies had already proven themselves able to fight Sars and Mers, leading researchers to speculate that they could work against the virus behind Covid-19 – and indeed, in cell cultures at least, they were effective against it. Researchers are now working towards clinical trials. “If it works, llama Winter deserves a statue,” Dr Xavier Saelens, a Ghent University virologist and study author, told the New York Times.

To any llama aficionado, this news should come as no surprise. The animals have developed a reputation for healing. Llama antibodies have been a fixture in the fight against disease for years, with researchers investigating their potency against HIV and other viruses.

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