Animals have been extremely helpful in all our medical endeavours. From being the test subjects of candidate therapies to being the source of the medicine, animals’ contribution cannot be downplayed in the progress of human health conditions worldwide. The Coronavirus pandemic might meet its end at the hands of another animal produced medicine. It is not a new thing for animals to be used as a source of antibodies to fight a certain virus. The vaccine for polio is produced from the blood of horses that have been infected with the disease.
A biotech company in South Dakota has achieved astonishing results in their undertaking to come up with possible therapies for the pandemic. The company has tricked the cows’ bodies into generating antibodies that can subdue the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease.
The preparations to start the clinical trials are in the advanced stage, and they could start as early as this summer. The new approach is promising because it is never a bad idea to have as many alternative weapons against a pandemic of this scale. An assortment of treatments are under development, and it could mean that the time of the pandemic could be cut short drastically.
The common way to generate these antibodies outside the human body is through wither cultured cells or tobacco plants. This approach, which utilizes the immune systems of animals, was developed about 20 years ago and is being currently used by Sab Biotherapeutics of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to produce the antibodies.
The approach is rather simple; it involves the genetic modification of cows to ensure that certain immune cells carry the DNA that allows humans to make such antibodies. Then the animals are injected with the pathogen, which triggers a large-scale production of the corresponding antibodies in the animals.
Essentially the cows are being used as giant bio-factories to make the products of our choice, which in this case are the antibodies for Coronavirus. Cows were a natural choice for this as their blood contains twice the number of antibodies than a human per millilitre. Another advantage of using live animals like cows is that it provides diversity.
Most of the companies that are making antibodies through other sources end-up reproducing the same kind of antibody, also known as monoclonal. Whereas live animals like cows produce what are known as polyclonal antibodies, which can recognize and attack several parts of the virus compared to only one.
The method has progressed quite a lot in its development phase and will soon enter the clinical trials, which could mean that an actual therapy might not be that far away.