A Faster, More Reliable Way to Create Prized Camelid Antibodies

American Veterinarian  
By: Amanda Carrozza 
Photo: Courtesy of Max Pixel  

Original content from American Veterinarian.        

Members of the camelid family—llamas, alpacas, camels—make a unique class of antibodies that allow scientists to determine the structures of otherwise impossible-to-study proteins in the body, understand how those proteins malfunction in disease, and design new drugs that act on them.

Utilizing the antibodies, however, doesn’t always prove simple.

Currently, a scientist who wants to study a difficult membrane protein using the antibodies has to complete a number of steps. First, he or she must laboriously generate several milligrams of the protein, inoculate a llama, and hope the animal’s immune system responds accordingly. Only then can the search for antibodies in a blood sample begin. The process is made even more challenging by the fact that scientists may not always have access to a llama or camel and, although no animals are harmed in the process, vaccinating them to generate the desired antibodies is expensive, takes as long as 6 months per attempt, and often fails.

Although not always profitable, the method is believed to be worth the effort and risk because the active segments of camelid antibodies—often called nanobodies because they can be much smaller than regular antibodies—have been vital in biomedical science. The nanobodies have provided scientists with unmatched insight, including the ability to see how neurotransmitters such as adrenaline and opioids bind to receptors in the brain.

Read the rest of this story at American Veterinarian.