Researchers have found a new way to extract nanoantibodies from llamas, a potent antibody that can fight the coronavirus, that can be fashioned into inhalable therapeutics to treat the Covid-19 infection.
The study, published in the journal Science, was carried out by the researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
To generate the nanobodies, researchers induced SARS-CoV-2 in a black llama and later retrieved the nanobodies generated by the animal to ward off the virus.
The researchers used a mass spectrometry-based technique that identified the nanobodies in llama’s blood that bind to SARS-CoV-2 most strongly.
The scientists again exposed those nanobodies to live SARS-CoV-2 virus and found that just a fraction of a nanogram could neutralize enough virus to spare a million cells from being infected.
Senior author Yi Shi, Ph.D., assistant professor of cell biology at Pitt, said: “The technology we developed surveys SARS-CoV-2 neutralising nanobodies at an unprecedented scale, which allowed us to quickly discover thousands of nanobodies with unrivaled affinity and specificity.”
Shi mentioned in the study that the nanobodies can survive at room temperature for six weeks and tolerate being fashioned into an inhalable mist to deliver antiviral therapy directly into the lungs where they’re most needed.
Since SARS-CoV-2 is a respiratory virus, the nanobodies could find and latch onto it in the respiratory system, before it even has a chance to do any damage.
“Nanobodies could potentially cost much less. They’re ideal for addressing the urgency and magnitude of the current crisis,” Shi added.
The team also found that their nanobodies use a variety of mechanisms to block SARS-CoV-2 infection. This makes nanobodies potent for bioengineering.
Study coauthor and CVR Director Paul Duprex, Ph.D. said: “As a virologist, it’s incredible to see how harnessing the quirkiness of llama antibody generation can be translated into the creation of potent nano weapons against clinical isolates of SARS-CoV-2.”