JUL 14, 2020 6:46 AM PDT

Itsy Bitsy Nanobodies to Defeat the Big Bad Coronavirus

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez


Scientists are working on developing an arsenal of nano-sized weapons in the war against COVID-19. These molecules, called nanobodies, have been in the spotlight due to the characteristic properties that make them particularly well suited as potential countermeasures against viral infections. In a boost to the field, scientists at the University of Zurich have created a platform for generating large nanobody libraries and selecting those with the highest virus-neutralizing potential at unprecedented speeds. Together with industry partners Absolute Antibody, the researchers are racing to bring their selection of potentially life-saving molecules to the global community.

Nanobodies, also known as single-domain antibodies, are small protein fragments that have the ability to bind selectively to a target, such as a viral protein. At just a tenth of the size of whole antibodies, nanobodies have distinct advantages for clinical applications: they can penetrate previously inaccessible parts of the body and are easier to manufacture at mass scales. Nanobodies were inspired by a type of antibody produced by the immune system of camels, llamas, and alpacas called VHH fragments. They are now being tested for their possible use in treating diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.

Researchers are especially interested in exploring how nanobodies can be used to fight COVID-19 because nanobodies could be administered as an inhalable drug. An inhalable spray would deliver nanobodies to the lungs of infected patients much faster than “traditional” antibody therapeutics, which are often infused into the bloodstream. Researchers from the laboratory of Markus Seeger have created a research tool for mining for synthetic nanobodies that attach to the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2. Previous studies have shown that blocking this RBD site on the virus arrested its ability to enter lung cells and cause or worsen COVID-19 disease. In just two short weeks, the Seeger lab identified over 60 unique RBD-blocking nanobodies using their platform.

The team is collaborating with Absolute Antibody, who bring their expertise in engineering and manufacturing antibodies for clinical use. “By partnering with Absolute Antibody, we have extended the reach and applications of our new synthetic nanobodies, furthering their potential in the race to develop urgently required therapeutics,” said Seeger. Additionally, nanobodies could play a big role in lessening the devastating effects of the pandemic not just as therapeutics, but also in COVID-19 diagnostics.

 

Sources: Technology Networks, Cell, bioRxiv.


 

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
MAY 15, 2020
Immunology
Support the Microbiome So the Immune System Can Do Its Job
MAY 15, 2020
Support the Microbiome So the Immune System Can Do Its Job
Research has long connected the human microbiome and immune system function, and now a recent study pinpoints a key poin ...
JUL 07, 2020
Immunology
A Step Towards a Cure for Rare Polio-Like Disease in Children
JUL 07, 2020
A Step Towards a Cure for Rare Polio-Like Disease in Children
Acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, is a rare but devastatingly debilitating neurologic disease in children caused by a resp ...
JUL 17, 2020
Immunology
More Potential Antibody Therapies for COVID Emerge
JUL 17, 2020
More Potential Antibody Therapies for COVID Emerge
When it comes to clinical countermeasures against COVID-19, one class of molecules stands out among the others: antibodi ...
JUL 28, 2020
Immunology
Immune-Brain Connection in Rare Disease Puzzles Scientists
JUL 28, 2020
Immune-Brain Connection in Rare Disease Puzzles Scientists
Huntington’s disease (HD) is a rare, inherited, and incurable condition associated with the progressive degenerati ...
AUG 14, 2020
Microbiology
Seasonal Flu Vaccine Immunity Probably Wears Off
AUG 14, 2020
Seasonal Flu Vaccine Immunity Probably Wears Off
From year to year, the influenza virus mutates and swaps genes with other flu viruses, and we need a new vaccine. But th ...
AUG 21, 2020
Microbiology
Vaccine Aimed at Fungi May Also Protect Against MRSA
AUG 21, 2020
Vaccine Aimed at Fungi May Also Protect Against MRSA
Staphylococcus aureus is a common bacterium. If it stays on the skin it's harmless, but if it gets into the bloodstream, ...
Loading Comments...