Llamas could be the key to a new treatment for patients who are severely ill with the coronavirus, new research suggests.
Scientists are experimenting with llama antibodies that could be engineered to fight the coronavirus. By working with a variety of nanobodies, or small antibodies, a team of UK scientists are working to create an antibody “cocktail” that could be used to treat COVID-19.
The small size and simplicity of the nanobodies means that scientists have been able to reengineer them to target the coronavirus.
“With the llama's antibodies, we have keys that don't quite fit – they'll go into the lock but won't turn all the way round,” Professor James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute in the UK and the lead researcher in the study told the BBC.
“So we take that key and use molecular biology to polish bits of it, until we've cut a key that fits,” he added.
The new study is not the first to examine llamas as a potential avenue for a coronavirus treatment.
In May, a study published in the scientific journal Cell also found that llamas could offer a defense against the COVID-19 coronavirus in the future after researchers found they staved off SARS and MERS viruses.