I’m trying to keep COVID-19 research to a minimum here, just because there’s so much of it everywhere, but I couldn’t resist this piece from Reuters. There’s interest, now, in a Belgian llama named Winter who appears to be generating antibodies that block SARS, MERS, and the COVID-19 virus:
The scientists, from Belgium’s VIB-UGent center for medical biotechnology and the University of Texas at Austin, published research on Tuesday in the journal Cell, with the llama in Belgium central to their studies.
“The work was a side project in 2016. We thought maybe this was interesting,” said Xavier Saelens, joint leader of the Belgian part of the collaboration. “Then the new virus came and it became potentially more crucial, more important.”
Winter, the llama, was given safe versions of the SARS and MERS viruses and samples of its blood were later taken.
Llamas and other members of camel family are distinct in creating standard antibodies and smaller antibodies, with which scientists can more easily work.
The Belgian part of the research team, also led by Bert Schepens, identified fragments of the smaller antibodies, known as nanobodies, to see which bound most strongly to the virus.
The team intend to begin tests on animals, with a view to allowing trials with humans to begin by the end of the year.