UK using alpaca antibodies for COVID-19 research

Published: Jun. 18, 2020 at 4:27 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Researchers around the world are working towards a vaccine for COVID-19.

One of those groups is doing research right here in Kentucky, but, they aren’t using human patients for their studies.

While you may think a patient would be the center of research for a potential coronavirus treatment, Dr. Wally Whiteheart, and his team from the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine, say alpacas may hold the key to treat COVID-19.

Big boy, Blue Eyes, and Emperor are the three alpacas helping with the research.

According to Dr. Whiteheart, alpacas produce a special antibody, called nanobodies, which they hope to use in a treatment that could protect people from being infected.

To get these nanobodies, the alpacas have to be immunized with isolated proteins from SARS-CoV-2 and then researchers collect blood samples containing the nanobodies produced by their immune system, which is then reproduced in larger quantities in the research lab.

“Nanobodies are cool because they’re small they don’t represent any toxicity to humans,” Dr. Whiteheart said. “You can actually use them as drugs and they’re actually small enough to where they can be taken up through the nose.”

Along with finding a potential treatment for COVID-19, Whiteheart says these alpacas and the nanobodies produced have already been used as a therapeutic for blood clotting and other disorders.

Copyright 2020 WKYT. All rights reserved.

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