Mooooove over test-tube treatments, cows are on the coronavirus case.
Turns out that there's no end to the benefits of the bovine. In addition to providing food, milk, and protection by way of leather, cows are now being tapped to help us humans out with disease.
Special cows that have been given genes from the human immune system are injected with COVID-19 (which as of now, doesn't seem to affect cattle, though livestock can get certain strains of coronaviruses). These cows, in theory, should produce antibodies to the disease thanks to the introduced genes. These antibodies may have the ability to help treat and prevent coronaviruses.
And, it turns out the bovine is an antibody-making machine due to size and the amount of plasma (which carries the antibodies) that it produces. Anywhere from 30L to 45L of plasma ca be taken per cow per month, making a large supply of antibodies available in a short time period.
SAB Biotherapeutics has high hopes that this will work for COVID-19, as it has had success creating antibodies through cows for MERS and influenza. MERS is a respiratory illness that is caused by a virus very similar to the coronavirus.
"A novel, quickly spreading infectious disease like COVID-19 is exactly the type of challenge our technology is ideally suited to address. The speed and sophistication of this platform – leveraging genetically engineered cattle to produce fully human antibodies – enables us to address this global health threat in ways no one else can," said sabbiotherapeutics.com.
The lab's cows are moving forward with creating those precious antibodies, and a product (named SAB-185) was created in late May. SAB Biotherapeutics partnered with the University of Pittsburgh to undertake tests to ensure that the SAB-185 antibodies 1) prevent disease in animals exposed to the coronavirus, and 2) are safe for human use without causing adverse side effects. These animal-based trials proved to be efficacious, and SAB announced that human trials will start in July.
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