Researchers have developed a highly potent and stable antibody from alpaca blood that can effectively block the virus responsible for Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2, and its dangerous new mutants.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry (MPI) in Germany noted that these mini-antibodies bind and neutralize the virus up to 1,000 times more than such previously developed antibodies.
In a study published in the EMBO Journal, researchers optimized so-called Nanobodies for stability and extreme heat resistance.
This unique combination makes them a promising drug for treating Covid-19.
Nanobodies can be mass-produced at low cost to meet the global demand for Covid-19 treatments.
Researchers said these new Nanobodies are currently in preparation for clinical trials.
Antibodies help our immune system dodge pathogens. For example, the molecule attaches to the virus and neutralizes it, so it does not infect cells.
Antibodies are manufactured industrially and can also be administered to patients with acute illness. It then acts like a drug, relieving symptoms and shortening recovery from the disease.
However, producing these molecules on an industrial scale is too complex and costly to meet global demand.
According to researchers, Nanobodies can solve this problem.
A team of researchers from the University of Göttingen Medical Center (UMG) in Germany said they would develop a mini-antibody to integrate all the properties needed for a powerful drug against Covid-19.
“For the first time, they combine extreme stability and outstanding efficacy against viruses and their alpha, beta, gamma, and delta variants,” said Dirk Gorlich, director of MPI in biophysical chemistry.
At first glance, the new Nanobodies are almost the same as the anti-SARS-CoV-2 Nanobodies developed in other laboratories.
They are all directed at an important part of the coronavirus spike, the receptor-binding domain that the virus develops to invade the host cell.
Nanobodies block this binding domain, thereby preventing the virus from infecting cells.
“Our Nanobodies can withstand temperatures up to 95 degrees Celsius without losing function or forming aggregates,” said Matthias Dobbelstein, professor and director of UMG’s Institute for Molecular Oncology. Says.
“One shows that this may remain active in the body for a sufficient amount of time to be effective. The other is the manufacture, processing and storage of heat-resistant Nanobodies. Is easy, “says Dobbelstein.
The simplest mini-antibodies developed by the team already bind up to 1,000 times stronger to peplomer than previously reported Nanobodies.
They also bind very well to the mutated receptor-binding domains of alpha, beta, gamma, and delta strains, the researchers said.
“Our Nanobodies are derived from alpaca and are smaller and simpler than traditional antibodies,” says Gorlich.
To develop Nanobodies against SARS-CoV-2, researchers immunized three alpaca with a portion of the coronavirus peplomer.
The mares then produced antibodies, and scientists took small blood samples from the animals.
The team extracted about a billion blueprints of Nanobodies from alpaca blood.
Biochemists used bacteriophage (a virus that infects bacteria) to initially select the best Nanobodies from a huge number of candidates.
These were then tested for effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 and further improved in a series of rounds of optimization.
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