We May Have Found a New Way to Fight Viruses in the Future

It has been 20 years now, and researchers are still trying to engineer antibodies for new treatments for viral infections and bacterial infections. There’s a team of scientists that found a new way to do so: they will fasten tiny antibodies from llama blood with a type of super bacterial glue. The antibodies, which will be interconnected, will protect mice from two dangerous viruses.

Jennifer Maynard of the University of Texas, Austin, stated: “I think this will be a very general technology that will be useful for infectious diseases and for cancer.” The work has been able to avoid many obstacles until now.

Antibodies are able to treat a lot of illnesses, including cancer and autoimmune diseases. Some engineered antibodies have been approved to treat infections, but it is very difficult to producing functioning antibodies. The fact that they need to genetically altering cells, it’s quite the tricky job, and the molecules made may not be in the right shape so that they can perform their task. A possible alternative would be the miniature antibodies pumped out by the immune cells of llamas, camels, and sharks. The proteins are faster and cheaper to make, and they don’t misfold.

The World Health Organization has warned us about bunyaviruses, which can cause future epidemics, so Paul Wichgers Schreur, molecular biologist, wanted to know if the miniature antibodies could provide protection from this virus. Researchers have tested the antibodies against two viruses. The Rift Valley fever virus attacks livestock in Africa and the Middle East. Then there’s the Schmallenberg virus that does not attack humans, but goats and sheep – it induces miscarriages or birth defects.

After injecting llamas with one of these two viruses, researchers isolated immune cells that produce antibodies from the blood of the animals. The llamas had 70 varieties of small antibodies that recognized and then discovered the two viruses.

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