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Biomedical Research

Breakthrough or Nah?

COVID-19 has impacted the world as high numbers of deaths and quarantine has consumed every individual. However, there may be hope as a new breakthrough is expected to bring a great change.

By Sajia Athai

Published 6:11 PM EST, Sun February 21, 2021

Introduction

COVID-19 has impacted the world in many powerful ways. From halting the economy to forever changing human interaction, 2020 showed the effects of this pandemic. With dramatic increases in deaths each day, the only hope seems to be the vaccine and any possible antibodies. However, scientists have made a breakthrough that suggests that mini antibodies from a llama could help to fight off infections. This unexpected opportunity brings a great change in terms of diseases and their effects.

COVID-19, Antibodies, and Llamas

Researchers have isolated many antibodies from llamas, which allows them to notice that these antibodies have the ability to fight off infections in the body, especially the infections caused by COVID-19. To elaborate, these antibodies are nanobodies, and can help detect viruses by specifically targeting SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins. As we know, COVID-19 is part of a much larger strain and in order to attack these particles, the nanobodies have to be analyzed further and be presented in an aerosol or liquid form. It is stated that it’s most effective through inhalation, which researchers have pondered whether there are other ways to increase the effectiveness of these nanobodies. Another way to explain is, neuroscientists have attempted to study different nanobodies because they are not costly and much easier to produce in large quantities. This allows for flexibility for research and disparate experiments. Scientists have been leaning towards utilizing more strike proteins to replicate the conditions against the coronavirus. This is imperative to finding a cure and plausible treatment for the virus. 

To elaborate further, nanobodies have been previously utilized in experiments that were primarily based on the utilization of monoclonal antibodies. One specific experiment involved the use of anti-BCL-6 GI191E/A8 MAb, which was found to be successful in terms of effectiveness. It helped to assist with the staining of a technique in order to test the impact of new antibodies on mice. It also involved the use of proteinase K helped to drastically decrease the background staining. The best results occurred after 24 hours of formalin fixation. It is stated that a similar technique would be utilized to test the effectiveness of the nanobodies. To elaborate, COVID-19 is a new strain that scientists have been analyzing and hoping to find medicine for. Utilizing nanobodies from llamas is very similar to the usage of antibodies of mice / in mice that have affected medicine as well. The nanobodies from llamas could target SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins and also help to attempt staining on a portion of the strain for further research. This will hopefully help scientists find easier ways to implement the nanobodies into their research for the cure to this disease.

By analyzing the antibodies, it was found that the nanobodies in the llama would target the spike proteins and possibly eliminate any possibility of an infection or any other issues. To elaborate, it would neutralize SARS-CoV-2 and two copies of the nanobody from the llama would be fused together in order to study the effects on the strain. With COVID-19, scientists noticed that it causes infections and blood clots within many individuals, which is what often leads to other respiratory illnesses that result in death. Although the disease impacts everyone in disparate ways, these antibodies can block infections which would help lower the number of deaths and help people recover. In order to test this further, a set of steps and techniques will be utilized such as the western – blot assay technique and others in order to see how effectively it will work against the virus.

An antibody called VHH-72Fc targets the spike protein on SARS-CoV-2 and it blocks the virus from infecting cells in a human body. This would be significant as antibodies are necessary to fight off the effects of the virus. The nanobodies that the scientists harvested from the llama that they utilized clung to the spike protein and prevented the virus from entering the cells. This has shown to be impactful due to the fact that the spike protein needed to be attacked in order to prevent an infection from occurring. This could possibly help find the effective cure to this disease as the obstacle that comes with the disease is primarily that the infections are hard to fight off. The existing antibodies in the hospitals have not been effective towards the infections for many patients who either have an underlying disease or pre-existing respiratory issues. However, VHH-72Fc has a high chance of targeting the protein without causing any harm to the patient and obstructing the virus from entering the human body. To explain further, the llama would also not be hurt in the process. Antibodies from mice have been shown to be successful in many diseases, and antibodies from llamas could also reach the same degree of success. More funding towards this research will assist in making a possible cure for the virus more effective.

Conclusion

Although the nanobodies have not proved themselves to be fully effective, they are definitely a significant step towards the right direction. This will possibly result in a medical discovery that would alter the lives of humans forever. Although scientists don’t know the effect of this approach, it has shown itself to be a useful tool to find the treatment and cure to COVID-19.

Sajia Athai, Youth Medical Journal 2021

References

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “Neuroscientists isolate promising mini antibodies against COVID-19 from a llama.” Science Daily, TrendMD, 22 December 2020, Accessed 2 February 2021. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/12/201222081257.htm

García, J., García, J., Maestre, L., Lucas, E., Sánchez-Verde, L., Romero-Chala, S., . . . Roncador, G. (2006). Genetic Immunization: A New Monoclonal Antibody for the Detection of BCL-6 Protein in Paraffin Sections. Journal of Histochemistry & Cytochemistry, 54(1), 31-38. doi:10.1369/jhc.5a6646.2005

Barry, M., Barry, M., & Johnston, S. (1994, January 01). Production of monoclonal antibodies by genetic immunization. Retrieved November 29, 2020, from https://asu.pure.elsevier.com/en/publications/production-of-monoclonal-antibodies-by-genetic-immunization

By Sajia Athai

Sajia Athai is a student at Stuyvesant High School in New York. She is interested in the fields of neurology, medicine, research, and pediatrics.

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