Llamas, Nanobodies, and COVID-19

From Evolution News: A Biomimetics Cure for COVID-19? Thank This Llama

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Someday soon, we may have llamas to thank for stopping the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically, we may express our gratitude to a pet llama named Wally. From Wally’s blood, scientists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have isolated “nanobodies” that bind to the spike proteins on the SARS-CoV-2 virus, disabling its entry into cells. And if the viruses cannot enter cells, they cannot reproduce and spread. Wally’s nanobodies, after some manipulation by the researchers, stop the virus in its tracks. 

There’s more good news. The research team believes the nanobodies can be manufactured in large quantities, rapidly distributed globally, and administered by inhalers, getting them right where they are needed most: in the respiratory tract and the lungs. The nanobodies appear to have a long shelf life, are inexpensive and safe. What’s not to like about Wally’s gift to the world?

Medical Xpress’s version of the news from University of Pittsburgh includes a short video showing Wally prancing around his pen, then describes how the researchers found the nanobodies.

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. 

“Nature is our best inventor,” said senior author Yi Shi, assistant professor of cell biology at Pitt. “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.” [Emphasis added.]

The story first hit the media August 8 in a preprint on bioRxiv, accompanied August 11 by news from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) with a good short video explaining how the nanobodies bind to the spike proteins of the coronavirus. UCSF’s research, very similar to Pitt’s, indicates international interest in this approach. Indeed, researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem are participating with Shi’s team. This is not a meteoric story making a quick flash and then disappearing into the void like so many cancer cures and memory boosters that never make it to market. Although clinical trials were not announced in either press release or the paper in Science, demand for this kind of rapidly deployable and inexpensive treatment could drive government support. The UCSF team is seeking a patent for their engineered nanobodies, which they named AeroNabs.

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You already know how overblown the COVID-19 panic is.

But, the disease is an actual disease, that actually kills people.

If a cheap and reliable solution is available, why not use it?

At least there is some scientific basis for the use of nanobodies. As compared for the non-existent scientific case for lockdowns or masks mandates.

A low-cost, effective cure — even a cure that is unnecessary for 99.9% of the population — is far better than an expensive, costly, and utterly worthless set of political power plays, dressed up in a shoddy lab coat.

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