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Current Affairs

Llama antibodies can prevent Vovid-19 infection

Date: 25 December 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

Scientists have isolated a set of promising, tiny antibodies against the novel coronavirus from a llama, some of which may help prevent the infection.
 

Background

Primary results suggest that the nanobody appears to work equally well in either liquid or aerosol form, suggesting it could remain effective after inhalation.
 

Details

  • At least one of these nanobodies, called NIH-CoVnb-112, could prevent infections and detect virus particles by grabbing hold of the spike proteins of SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19.

  • A nanobody is a special type of antibody naturally produced by the immune systems of camelids, a group of animals that includes camels, llamas, and alpacas.

  • On average, these proteins are about a tenth the weight of most human antibodies. This is because nanobodies isolated in the lab are essentially free-floating versions of the tips of the arms of heavy chain proteins.

  • These tips play a critical role in the immune system's defences by recognising proteins on viruses, bacteria, and other invaders, also known as antigens.

  • Because nanobodies are more stable, less expensive to produce, and easier to engineer than typical antibodies, a growing body of researchers have been using them for medical research.

  • Researchers developed a method that would isolate nanobodies that block infections by covering the teeth of the spike protein that bind to and unlock the ACE2 receptor.

  • Test tube studies showed that this nanobody bound to the ACE2 receptor 2 to 10 times stronger than nanobodies produced by other labs.

Other experiments suggested that the NIH nanobody stuck directly to the ACE2 receptor binding portion of the spike protein.