How Llama (a type of camel) can save us from COVID-19?

  • How Llama (a type of camel) can save us from COVID-19?
  • Reference:
  • Antibodies are proteins produced by our immune system. They help our immune system to identify and kill pathogens and infected cells. Interestingly, antibodies produced in different organisms will work in our body as long as they have a code recognized by our immune system. This paper shows, antibodies generated in llamas (a camel like animal present in South America) can help humans to fight COVID19. Two antibodies have been identified by a team of scientists led by Dr. Bert Schepens and Dr. Xavier Saelens of the VIB life sciences Institute in Belgium and Dr. Jason McLellan of Texas University at Austin. These antibodies bind the spike (S) protein and prevent it from binding the receptor ACE2 in our lungs. One of the antibodies neutralized MERS while the other cleared SARS. The fact that COVID-19 is very similar to SARS makes this a very important finding! Fusing the SARS neutralizing llama antibody with human antibody created a hybrid one that neutralized COVID-19. It is important to note that human antibodies require combination of two proteins to function and therefore difficult to produce commercially in a different organism. But llama antibodies can be produced relatively easily by producing single protein. Therefore discovery of llama antibody capable of neutralizing COVID-19 is a significant step towards commercial production of antibody based therapy against it.
  • Summary by: Tanaya Roychowdhury, Graduate student at Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, India

Photo credit: Chris on Unsplash

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