Biotechnology company SAb Biotherapeutics is using genetically modified cows to create human antibodies capable of fighting the new coronavirus.
The American company plans to start clinical trials with the technology in the coming months. Scientists altered the DNA of dairy cows so that certain immune cells could produce human antibodies.
This modification allows these animals to produce large amounts of antibodies against the pathogenic proteins they find in their bodies – such as the spike protein in the new coronavirus. “Essentially, the cows are used as a giant bioreactor,” said William Klimstra of the University of Pittsburgh in an interview with Science.
Another advantage of using cows is that they can produce antibodies against several proteins of a single virus at once. According to experts, this ability makes the particles produced more resilient, becoming effective even when a virus mutates.
According to the researchers, before the animal starts releasing antibodies into the blood, it needs an initial immunization that prepares its body to receive the virus. Then the cow receives an injection that contains a part of the Sars-CoV-2 spike protein to stimulate antibody production.
As Eddie Sullivan, president and CEO of SAb Biotherapeutics, explains, each month a cow produces enough cells to treat hundreds of patients with Covid-19. The biotechnology company hopes to test the antibodies of cows in treating people with the new coronavirus still in 2020.