Alpacas ’low-cost nanocodies are highly potent inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2

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Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, Germany, designed mini-antibodies, called nanocodies, against SARS-CoV-2. The team’s nanocodies are stable up to 95 degrees Celsius (203 F) and are cheaper and less complex to produce than conventional antibodies. To date, nanocodies have demonstrated impressive efficacy against the virus and its variants in the laboratory, and researchers are preparing to conduct a clinical trial to see if they could be a viable treatment for patients with COVID-19.

Two of the newly created nanocodies (blue and magenta) that bind to the receptor binding domain (green) of the coronavirus ear protein (gray), thus preventing infection with SARS-CoV-2 and its variants.
Credit: Thomas Güttler / Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry

Antibodies are an important defense against viral invaders in our body. These protein structures bind and neutralize a wide variety of pathogens and are an important part of the immune response generated after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination. They also represent a potential treatment for patients with COVID-19, through which antibodies produced in the laboratory can be administered to these patients to help them fight the virus. However, producing antibodies is expensive and complex, and it is currently not possible to create enough supplies to treat everyone who needs them.

In contrast, nanoc bodies, which are more easily manufactured, could be a viable alternative. This latest creation is becoming a promising drug candidate for COVID-19. “For the first time, they combine extreme stability and exceptional efficacy against the virus and its Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta mutants,” said Dirk Görlich, a researcher involved in the study, in a press release.

The three alpaca mares Britta, Xenia, and Nora provided the starting point for COVID-19 nanocodies.
Credit: Carmen Rotte / Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry

Max Planck’s team uses Alpacas to produce the nanocodies by immunizing them against the viral spike protein and then isolating the nanocodies from the blood before further purification and testing. “Our nanocodies originate in alpaca and are smaller and simpler than conventional antibodies,” Görlich said. “The overall burden on our animals is very low, comparable to vaccination and blood testing in humans.”

Surprisingly, new nanocodies have a very high heat tolerance, which is important for their stability in the body and can be a point of adhesion for many biological treatments. “Our nanoscopes can withstand temperatures of up to 95 ° C without losing their function or forming aggregates,” said Matthias Dobbelstein, another researcher working on the project. “On the one hand, this indicates that they could remain active in the body long enough to be effective. On the other hand, heat-resistant nanocodies are easier to produce, process and store. ”

Researchers are planning a clinical trial of the technology, which may have potential as an inhaled treatment for patients with COVID-19. “Our individual nanoc bodies are potentially suitable for inhalation and therefore for direct neutralization of the virus in the airways,” Dobbelstein said. “Also, because they are very small, they could easily penetrate tissues and prevent the virus from spreading further to the site of infection.”

Study a The EMBO newspaper: Neutralization of SARS-CoV-2 by highly potent, hyperthermable and mutation-tolerant nanocodies

Via: Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry





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