What Do Llamas and Nurse Sharks Have in Common?
mp3 | wav


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…

Multimeric single-domain antibody complexes protect against bunyavirus infections
he World Health Organization has included three bunyaviruses posing an increasing threat to human health on the Blueprint list of viruses likely to cause major epidemics and for which no, or insufficient countermeasures exist. Here, we describe a broadly applicable strategy, based on llama-derived single-domain antibodies (VHHs), for the development of bunyavirus biotherapeutics...

Biologists invent a new way to fight viruses with llama blood and molecular superglue
For more than 20 years, researchers have tried with limited success to engineer antibodies into new treatments for bacterial and viral infections. Now, a team of scientists has come up with a new approach: fastening together tiny antibodies from llama blood with a type of bacterial superglue. The interconnected antibodies protect mice from two dangerous viruses, and they could subdue other pathogens...

Mini-antibodies discovered in sharks and camels could lead to drugs for cancer and other diseases
Helen Dooley admits that she often gets puzzled responses when she describes her work. "People say, ‘You bleed sharks for a living?’" That's an overstatement, but every couple of weeks she and a helper drop by several large fiberglass tanks at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology on the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland...