What Do Llamas and Nurse Sharks Have in Common?
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What do llamas and nurse sharks have in common? Their antibodies just might make our immune system more effective at fighting off disease. That’s because these animals’ antibodies are half the size of human antibodies.

Antibodies are a part of our immune system that fights off foreign substances such as viruses. Ours are large Y shaped structures made of four proteins. The tip of the Y binds to a foreign entity called an antigen such as a virus and the other end directs what happens after binding. The upsides of having smaller antibodies is that they can get inside cells more easily and make their way deeper into tissues which is useful in research to track proteins in the body. They can also neutralize viruses and label cancer cells. What scientists have found is that they can make these llama antibodies even smaller so that these so called “nanobodies” can bind to antigens that larger antibodies can’t.

To make them even more effective, scientists have linked together these nano-antibodies and tested them on two dangerous pathogens, the Rift Valley Fever virus and the Schmallenberg virus. Mice given lethal doses of the viruses and treated with the llama nano-antibodies survived whereas all the untreated mice with the viruses died.

This type of work has become more valuable today because we’re all aware of the impacts of a pandemic. Perhaps it’ll be one of the tools we’ll need.

For more information…

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