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How Lama Helps Scientists Develop COVID-19 Nasal Spray Treatment

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Toronto-British scientists are developing a “potentially important” treatment for COVID-19 that can be given to patients in the form of a nasal spray, thanks to a small antibody produced by Lama.

According to a recent survey by the Rosalind Franklin Institute Published in Nature Communications, Treatment may prevent and treat COVID-19.

“Vaccines have proven to be very successful, but not everyone responds to vaccination, and immunity can decline in individuals at different times,” Rosalind, who led the study. James Naismith, director of the Franklin Institute, said in a statement.

“Especially not all of the world is vaccinated at the same rate, and there remains a risk of the emergence of new variants that can circumvent vaccine immunity, so it is still very difficult to have a drug that can treat the virus. Is important to. “

To develop a cure, researchers injected a llama named FIfi with a small, non-infectious fragment of purified peplomer protein from the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19). bottom.

Scientists have specifically chosen llamas because of the unique ability of the species to produce small single-domain antibodies (or Nanobodies) in response to infection. Alpacas, camels, and even other camels, including sharks, can produce these Nanobodies.

Due to their small size, these Nanobodies can bind more strongly to the SARS-CoV-2 virus than larger antibodies produced by humans. When a Nanobody gets caught in an invading virus, the body’s immune system flags the virus for destruction.

“Nanobodies have many advantages over human antibodies,” said Ray Owens, head of protein production at the Rosalind Franklin Institute and lead author of the study, in a statement.

“They are cheap to manufacture and can be delivered directly to the airways via a nebulizer or nasal spray, so they can be self-administered at home without the need for injections.”

Throughout the pandemic, human antibodies have been used to treat severe cases of COVID-19, but usually need to be given by intravenous infusion in a hospital. Nanobodies, on the other hand, can be delivered in the form of simple nasal drops.

“This may have benefits in terms of patient usability, but it can also treat the infected area of ​​the respiratory tract directly,” Owens added.

“Important possibilities”

Returning to Lama’s Fifi, after the animal was injected with a small piece of viral spike protein, its immune system was triggered to repel the viral protein by producing Nanobodies against the viral protein. Following this, researchers took a sample of Fifi’s blood and purified four Nanobodies capable of binding to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Next, these Nanobodies were designed in the lab into three chains to increase their ability to bind the virus.

Llama

Llama has the unique ability to produce small single domain antibodies (or Nanobodies) in response to infection. (Joe Kelly / Rosalind Franklin Institute)

The team found that three chains were able to neutralize the original and Alpha variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and the fourth chain was effective in neutralizing the Beta variant.

When one of the Nanobody chains was tested in COVID-19-infected hamsters, rodents showed a “significant reduction” in the disease, losing much more weight and having less viral load in the lungs than the untreated one. rice field. Airways after 7 days compared to those left untreated.

Although the treatment has been tested only in animals, Public Health England has stated that it is one of the “most effective” SARS-CoV-2 neutralization treatments tested so far.

“This study is still in its infancy, but opens up great potential for the use of effective Nanobody treatments for COVID-19,” said Miles Carroll, Deputy Director of the National Infectious Diseases Service of the British Public Health Service (PHE). Stated.

As a next step, a team of researchers, including scientists from the University of Liverpool, Oxford University, and PHE, wants to get funding to carry out clinical research in humans. They also hope that their Nanobody technology may one day be used as a “platform technology” to combat other diseases.

“If a new virus emerges in the future, the common technology we have developed may respond, which is important for creating new therapies as soon as possible,” Owens said. increase.

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