DETROIT – We’ve heard a lot about antibodies in terms of determining who has already been exposed to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and recovered, but many experts believe they could also play a major role in treating the virus.
Experts are already using antibodies in the form of convalescent plasma to help treat patients fighting COVID-19, but the next step in these treatments could take that century-old concept and give it a high-tech twist.
The key to treating the coronavirus might be found in the blood of those who have survived it.
When someone is sick, antibodies inside their blood help fight off the virus. Scientists are analyzing those antibodies and trying to select the most powerful ones, clone them and turn them into a drug.
One of those teams is at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
“These are all distinct, hitting the same sit, but distinct antibodies,” lead researcher Dr. James Crowe said.
The treatment could possibly prevent infection or treat those who are already sick.
Crowe specializes in vaccines, but he said monoclonal antibody research will be faster.
“I think antibodies will be finished first and will be the bridge toward longer immunity, which will be conferred by vaccines,” Crowe said.
It’s not just humans helping in the effort. Antibody therapies are also being developed in cows and a llama named Winter.
Llamas produce two types of antibodies. One is very similar to that produced by humans, and another is much smaller and potentially more effective at preventing the spikes of the coronavirus from attaching to healthy cells.
Many research teams are shooting for a common goal.
“I think the more groups we have working on it, all the better, and the more shots on goal we have for getting an effective prevention or treatment,” Crowe said.
Monoclonal antibody therapies are already used to threat some cancers, arthritis and asthma.
Researchers from one company, Regeneron, said their antibody treatment for COVID-19 could be on the market as early as the end of the summer, with many more potentially in the pipeline.