Nanobodies from ‘llama’ Against Coronavirus

Recently, a team of researchers at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) have isolated a set of nanobodies from a llama named Cormac. As per the researchers, this nanobody can hold promise against the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

Key Points

  • As per the researchers, at least one of these nanobodies can prevent infections and detect virus particles by grabbing hold of SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins.
  • This nanobody is called NIH-CoVnb-112. It was found to work well in either aerosol or liquid form, suggesting that it can be effective after inhalation.
  • Since the start of COVID-19, many researchers have produced nanobodies of llama against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein that can be effective in preventing infection.
  • In this study, the researchers used a somewhat different strategy to find nanobodies.
  • The spike protein is key in a coronavirus infection. It opens the door to infections when it binds to the ACE2 receptor, a human protein.
  • The NIH researchers have developed a method that will be able to isolate nanobodies to prevent infections. This method will cover a part of the spike protein that binds and unlocks the ACE2 receptor.
  • For doing this, the scientists immunized Cormac with a purified version of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein for 5 times over 28 days.
  • After testing many nanobodies, the researchers found that Cormac produced 13 nanobodies that might be strong candidates.
  • The researchers have found that NIH-CoVnB-112 can be effective in preventing coronavirus infections.

What is a nanobody?

It is a special type of antibody that is produced naturally by the immune systems of a group of animals- llamas, camels, and alpacas. This group is called camelid. These nanobodies are very tiny, approximately a tenth the weight of most human antibodies.

Nanobodies are less expensive to produce, more stable, and easier to engineer than antibodies and that is why researchers use them for medical research.