Scientists Have Used Next Generation Sequencing to Help Identify Nanobodies to Counter SARS-CoV-2

Since the start of the global novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 infections, researchers have been marshaling their forces to identify sources of therapies and cures against this evolving disease. Looking for SARS-Cov-2 neutralizing alpaca nanobodies is part of the work being done today to battle against the pandemic as well as to protect the world’s population against future epidemics that might also rage out of control.

While COVID-19 did catch the world off-guard, scientists are working hard to make sure we are better prepared not only to address new mutations or variants, but also new viruses that have yet to make headlines.

People are doing their part by getting vaccinated and obtaining booster vaccine shots when appropriate, as well as wearing masks when social distancing in cases where they are in confined spaces with many individuals present whose vaccination status cannot be known.

And exercising good hygiene protocols is also a major aspect of contending with a novel virus. To defeat viruses, doctors want to help people boost the ability of patients’ immune systems. Hence the search for miniature nanobodies that pertain to anti-SARS-CoV-2 infections. Scientists sometimes refer to them just as nanobodies.

Now, the quest to identify nanobodies in people to help shore up immune system defenses is getting help thanks to technology using next generation sequencing, as reported by Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News.

About Nanobodies

People familiar with the term “nanotechnology” which is used to describe extremely tiny devices built at the molecular scale may notice the similarity with “nanobodies,” which refers to very small fragments of antibodies that we harvest from camelids. These antibodies are suitable for adaptation in treating human beings. As naturally occurring forms of antibodies, they find use in the lab because scientists can quickly ramp up production to produce big batches at scale, in a cost-effective manner.

What Is Next Generation Sequencing?

Often referred to as NGS, next generation sequencing is a method that allows scientists to sequence DNA and RNA using high-speed computer systems to scan through the genetic code for signs of mutations or unwanted variations.

NGS was impossible for us to do until the advent of the computer era. It now plays a major role in a variety of settings, from research labs to educational institutions to pharmaceutical and biomedical companies.

NGS Work at Karolinska Institute

It’s common for scientists to use next generation sequencing to help them in their analysis of immune system defenses to find useful antibodies. To date, though, there is no standard technique to accomplish this work per Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News.

This is where efforts are being made now, such as at the Karolinska Institute. Scientists have been working with mice and cell cultures as they identify nanobodies in the laboratory.

During experiments, they found that some nanobodies have been able to block infections, looking at various SARS-CoV-2 variants. They published their findings in a report called “Multivariate mining of an alpaca immune repertoire identifies potent cross-neutralizing SARS-CoV-2 nanobodies” in the journal Science Advances.

The article’s authors noted, “The most potent nanobodies bind to the receptor-binding motif of the receptor-binding domain (RBD), and we identify two exceptionally potent members of this category.”

They used NGS sequencing to determine which nanobodies are the most effective against the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus. Discovering suitable nanobodies for one variant can help the scientists potentially find new cures as future variations of COVID-19 emerge in human populations.

A Promising New Therapy Thanks to Next Generation Sequencing?

Researchers will continue to investigate using NGS at the Karolinska Institute to see how they might be able to shed light on identifying and using nanobodies for therapeutic applications.

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