The next half of the year 2020 is starting in a few days, but we’re still deep into the coronavirus pandemic with no clear sign when the end is or how we’re going to combat an unseen enemy, but if scientists have got this right, we may end up getting saved by alpacas.
In a report by The Telegraph, researchers have claimed that they have found nanobodies in alpacas that could neutralize the COVID-19 virus and prevent it from “binding” to a cell.
They believe that this finding could re-open the countries around the world that are still left in lockdown and avoid a probable second wave of COVID-19 infections.
The nanobody, which they named Ty1 after the 12-year-old alpaca donor Tyson, could block and stop the virus in the early stages of infection and help protect those who are most vulnerable to it.
Researchers from universities in South Africa and Sweden acquired nanobodies from an alpaca to get the results, which they then used to immunize the coronavirus and fight the infection.
They found out that the nanobodies, which are tiny fragments of antibodies, target the protein spikes of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
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For those who aren’t yet aware, the spikes are what the virus uses to attach themselves to a healthy cell and uses it to push into it and hijack it, allowing itself to replicate into thousands of versions of itself that would infect more cells.
Since the nanobodies from the alpaca target the COVID-19 spikes, it “directly interferes” with the virus’ ability to infect a person and “potently neutralize the virus.”
In addition, they believe they could mass-produce an antiviral agent made from these alpaca nanobodies easily as they are easily and cheaply reproduced as they are much easier to clone, manipulate, and express due to their size.
In context, nanobodies are only one-tenth of the size of the antibodies that humans produce.
“We know that antibodies targeting the same very, very accurate part of the virus are the important ones, and that’s what we designed with these Tyson antibodies,” said Gerald McInerney, the team leader of researchers from the Karolinska University Hospital located in Stockholm, Sweden.
“In principle, all the evidence would suggest that it will work very well in humans, but it is a very complex system,” he further added.
According to News18, the team immunized Tyson the alpaca first to acquire the Ty1 nanobodies.
Then, isolated the tiny antibody fragments from his blood that have the potential to bind with the coronavirus protein spikes.
Nevertheless, the study hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet and that further research will be required to guarantee its effectiveness against the COVID-19 virus, especially when used in humans.
Still, the team believes Ty1 could be a potential SARS-CoV-2 antiviral agent.
Despite some potential drugs and vaccines on the way, experts still believe that we’re going to bring the coronavirus pandemic into the new year, so as much as possible, stay at home and stay safe.
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