via University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
Today in Science, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine describe a new method to extract tiny but extremely powerful SARS-CoV-2 antibody fragments from llamas, which could be fashioned into inhalable therapeutics with the potential to prevent and treat COVID-19.
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, Ph.D., 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.”
To generate these nanobodies, Shi turned to a black llama named Wally—who resembles and therefore shares his moniker with Shi’s black Labrador.
Shi and colleagues immunized the llama with a piece of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and, after about two months, the animal’s immune system produced mature nanobodies against the virus.
Using a mass spectrometry-based technique that Shi has been perfecting for the past three years, lead author Yufei Xiang, a research assistant in Shi’s lab, identified the nanobodies in Wally’s blood that bind to SARS-CoV-2 most strongly.
Then, with the help of Pitt’s Center for Vaccine Research (CVR), the scientists exposed their 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.
These nanobodies represent some of the most effective therapeutic antibody candidates for SARS-CoV-2, hundreds to thousands of times more effective than other llama nanobodies discovered through the same phage display methods used for decades to fish for human monoclonal antibodies.
Shi’s nanobodies can sit 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 damage.
In contrast, traditional SARS-CoV-2 antibodies require an IV, which dilutes the product throughout the body, necessitating a much larger dose and costing patients and insurers around $100,000 per treatment course.
“Nanobodies could potentially cost much less,” said Shi. “They’re ideal for addressing the urgency and magnitude of the current crisis.”
In collaboration with Cheng Zhang, Ph.D., at Pitt, and Dina Schneidman-Duhovny, Ph.D., at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the team found that their nanobodies use a variety of mechanisms to block SARS-CoV-2 infection. This makes nanobodies ripe for bioengineering. For instance, nanobodies that bind to different regions on the SARS-CoV-2 virus can be linked together, like a Swiss army knife, in case one part of the virus mutates and becomes drug-resistant.
“As a virologist, it’s incredible to see how harnessing the quirkiness of llama antibody generation can be translated into the creation of a potent nanoweapon against clinical isolates of SARS-CoV-2,” said study coauthor and CVR Director Paul Duprex, Ph.D.
The Latest Updates from Bing News & Google News
Go deeper with Bing News on:
- Nanobodies from nanomice and llamas show potent neutralizing activity against SARS-CoV-2 variantson June 10, 2021 at 9:52 pm
While several COVID-19 vaccines have been approved to date, the constant evolution of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) receptor-binding domain (RBD) has challenged the ...
- (AUDIO) HUMBOLDT HOLDING UP: Let’s Talk Llamas! Keagan Trischum Invites You to Go on an Adventure With a Friendly Camelid by Your Sideon June 6, 2021 at 7:02 am
On this week’s episode of Humboldt Holding Up Keagan Trischum — co-owner of Luna’s Llama Adventures — teaches us all about llamas and why they make great hiking companions, whether in the mountains, ...
- China Reports First Human Case Of H10N3 Bird Flu: What Do We Knowon June 1, 2021 at 5:03 am
Also Read: You May Never Come Down With Horrible Flu Ever Again, Thanks To Discovery Of Llama 'Nanobodies' According to the report, the H10N3 is a low-pathogenic/ less severe variant of the virus.
- Nasal spray gives Pitt researchers a promising new weapon to fight Covidon May 26, 2021 at 12:40 pm
The next big weapon to fight Covid may actually be very, very tiny. It’s an aerosolized nanobody named the Pittsburgh inhalable Nanobody-21 (PiN-21), and it has proved to be extremely effective when ...
- Pitt's inhalable 'nanobody' fights off COVID-19 in hamsters at ultralow doseson May 26, 2021 at 12:08 pm
RELATED: UCSF engineers develop llama-inspired 'AeroNabs' to strangle COVID-19 with an inhaler Nanobodies' unique structure and multiple advantages over monoclonal antibodies have attracted the ...
Go deeper with Google Headlines on:
Go deeper with Bing News on:
Inhalable therapeutics to prevent and treat COVID-19
- Health Canada grants Interim Order authorization for casirivimab and imdevimab for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19on June 10, 2021 at 4:22 am
Interim data shows treatment with casirivimab and imdevimab resulted in a statistically significant reduction in viral loads compared to ...
- Selva Announces SLV213, a Potential Oral COVID-19 Treatment, Has Broad Activity Against SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concernon June 9, 2021 at 9:00 am
Selva Announces SLV213, a Potential Oral COVID-19 Treatment, Has Broad Activity Against SARS-CoV-2 Variants of Concern ...
- Biden Administration announces U.S. government procurement of Merck’s investigational antiviral medicine for COVID-19 treatmenton June 9, 2021 at 4:00 am
The Biden Administration today announced that the U.S. government will procure approximately 1.7 million courses of an investigational antiviral treatment ...
- Research reveals a possible new approach to prevent death among elderly COVID-19 patientson June 8, 2021 at 6:43 pm
New research from the University of Minnesota Medical School and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic reveals a possible new approach to preventing death and severe disease in elderly people infected with ...
- ‘Treat people before they get worse’; race is on to find at-home COVID-19 drugs that stop viral infection, avoid hospitalizationson June 3, 2021 at 6:21 am
When people come down with a mild case of COVID-19, there’s no drug treatment for home use to stop it from getting worse. By next year, a person who just tested positive for COVID-19 could phone their ...