Nanobodies: The Next Generation Cure

A lot has happened regarding the pandemic since it started in December 2019. From doctors prescribing drugs, people claiming natural remedies and the fast production of vaccines, there has been an explosion of research to find a cure for the SARS-CoV-2 disease.

Recently, a team of scientists from the University of Pittsburgh and Case Western Reserve University have found a new method of fighting against coronavirus – nanobody. A nanobody is a single fragment of an antibody also known as single-domain antibody. Despite it’s smaller size and single domain, it has been found to be more effective and specific than a regular antibody.

The research team have come up with three ways by which the nanobodies are able to neutralize the COVID-19 virus. This has proven to be effective among the variants such as Alpha and Delta. This new method can work in the future during the production of vaccines and therapeutics against coronavirus.

“This is the first time anyone has systematically classified ultrapotent nanobodies based on their structure,” said senior author Yi Shi, Ph.D., assistant professor of cell biology at Pitt. “By doing this, we’ve not only provided details on the mechanisms our nanobodies use to defeat SARS-CoV-2, but also revealed directions for how to design future therapeutics.”

The nanobodies have been classified into three groups according to their mechanism of defeating the virus

  • Class I – This is the most effective because it binds itself on the human cell thus preventing the spike protein on the virus from attaching to the human cell.
  • Class II – This binds to a specific region on the spike protein that is common in all the variants, including the original virus.
  • Class III – This binds to the region in the spike protein where larger antibodies cannot attach and prevents the virus from entering human cells.

Through this discovery, Yi Shi believes that by selecting and refining these nanobodies it can not only be used as a vaccine to cure COVID-19 variants but also other diseases caused by coronaviruses such as SARS.

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