Camels and alpacas have special antibodies. Now researchers can make them with yeast

By: Andrew Joseph
Photo: Courtesy of Alpaca Culture

Original content from STAT.     

One of the biggest obstacles to obtaining a special and prized kind of antibody is that you need to know someone with a camel.

Fine. An alpaca would do as well.

But given that these animals aren’t exactly hanging around many research centers — and that they’re not so easy to work with — scientists have been developing synthetic ways of producing these antibodies.

“How many camels are there around?” said Tom Moran, the director of the Center for Therapeutic Antibody Development at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine. “Yeah, I think that’s a real pain.”

Camelids include llamas and alpacas, among other animals. The reason their antibodies are so important to science is the result of an evolutionary quirk. The animals produce conventional antibodies like humans and other mammals, but they also have a secondary set of antibodies that can bind to key proteins that standard antibodies cannot reach, likely because they are smaller. That means that the binding portions of these antibodies — which are called nanobodies — can sneak into the nooks and crannies of these key proteins and stabilize them.

Read the rest of this story at STAT.