NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- They are like the immune system’s own supercharged superheroes. When a foreign invader attacks the body, the immune system uses antibodies to neutralize the pathogen. Now researchers believe alpacas may hold the key to studying and treating rare diseases.
Alpacas may be coveted for their wool, and maybe their personalities, but according to some researchers what’s in their blood may prove to be more valuable.
Brian Wadzinski, PhD, an Associate Professor of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University said, “Turns out that alpacas and other members of the camel family, old-world camels, and llamas, have a very unique form of antibody.”
They have a heavy-chain-only antibody, which means it is easier to extract and isolate a fragment of that antibody.
Benjamin Spiller, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University explained, “It sort of enables the study of new diseases as they are being understood to be related to specific mutations.”
Such as Jordan’s syndrome, which affects about 100 kids worldwide. The team is using the alpaca antibodies to visualize and potentially regulate the gene product PPP2R5D, which is linked to the condition.
“Patients that have this syndrome known as Jordan’s syndrome, they are characterized both with intellectual disability, a large head, low muscle tone.”
The same gene that is linked to Jordan’s syndrome is also linked to autism, Alzheimer’s, and some forms of cancers. The team said with a quick blood sample from the alpacas they have, “A plethora of different tools to be able to study. This will increase our understanding and hopefully pave the way for future development of treatments,” said Wadzinski.
Earlier this year, the first drug to use antibodies from the species camelid which include camels, llamas, and alpacas, gained FDA approval. It is used to treat a rare blood clotting disorder called TTP.
Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.