Scientists have long turned to llamas for antibody research. In the last decade, for example, scientists have used llamas’ antibodies in H.I.V. and influenza research, finding promising therapies for both viruses.
Winter is a 4-year-old chocolate-colored llama with spindly legs, ever-so-slightly askew ears and envy-inducing eyelashes. Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, the National Institutes of Health and Ghent University in Belgium hope she might be an important figure in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
The coronavirus gets its name for having a corona, or crown shape, which is formed by protein spikes that let the virus break into healthy host cells. But the preliminary research finds that the petite antibodies from Winter’s blood (which were used to engineer a new antibody) can bind onto the coronavirus spikes, and block the virus from infecting cells.
The researchers are hopeful the antibody can eventually be used as a prophylactic treatment, by injecting someone who is not yet infected to protect them from the virus, such as a health care worker.
Source: New York Times