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Cows used to develop coronavirus antibody treatment

Another company trying similar approach with mice

Buford The Cow
Buford The Cow (© 2020 Image Catcher Photography)

Cows to the COVID-19 rescue? Maybe.

Cattle are being used to develop a possible antibody treatment for coronavirus.

Cows have human chromosomes, and SAb Biotherapeutics in South Dakota is hoping their blood could help make a drug to fight COVID-19.

Using genetic engineering, scientists create a cow embryo that contains parts of human chromosomes.

That embryo becomes a calf and then a cow.

Then, a non-infectious part of the novel coronavirus is injected into that cow.

Because of genetic engineering, the cow produces human antibodies to the virus.

Those antibodies are collected from the cow, and once purified, become a drug that might work to combat the coronavirus in humans

So these cows are plasma donors just like humans who've recovered from coronavirus who donate their blood.

But the cows have a big advantage, and that is, they're big and have a lot of blood to give.

“That’s one of the reasons that we chose cattle because obviously they are a large animal,” said Dr. Eddie Sullivan of SAb Biotherapeutics.

Plus, they can donate plasma three times a month whereas humans can only donate once a month.

Another company, Regeneron, is trying a similar approach with mice who are engineered to have portions of a human immune system.

They call them magic mice. They extract and clone the best antibodies.

“We literally genetically humanized mice,” said Dr. George Yancopoulos of Regeneron. “We put in the genes for the human immune system into mice so that these mice have pretty much exactly a human immune system.”

Both companies plan to start human clinical trials early this summer.

“If all goes well, we expect that we will have the drug on the market by early next year,” Dr. Sullivan said.

Of course, there’s no telling if this will work but hopefully, these part-human animals will play a role in saving lives during the pandemic.

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