Health

Last Night a Llama Saved My Life: Animal Antibodies Could Treat Cancer, Diabetes

DiscoblogBy Melissa LafskyFeb 19, 2009 12:02 AM
llamaweb.jpg

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

Could the next breakthrough in treatment for diseases from cancer to Alzheimer's to rheumatoid arthritis lie with a four-legged, furry creature with a penchant for spitting and biting? Improbably, the answer is yes. Scientists have discovered that the llama, a South American relative of the camel, possesses antibodies that are uniquely tiny—around 90 percent smaller, in fact, than the antibodies of humans. With these tiny sentinels guarding their immune systems, the fuzzy creatures are far better at targeting invading bacteria and viruses. Cue the medical researchers, who are pouncing on this newfound revelation to work on new and better treatments for a host of debilitating and/or fatal diseases. As Popular Sciencepoints out, the mini-antibodies could also mean improvements in the delivery of vaccines (we could use inhalers rather than all those painful, messy, and potentially hazardous needles) and could save money in production costs, since the tinier antibodies can be grown using bacteria rather than the more expensive mammalian cells used to produce human antibodies. Now if we could just find a way to do something about all that spitting... Related: Disco: Want More Milk? Then Name Your Cows Disco: The Curious Case of the Immortal Jellyfish Disco: Worm Glue May Hold the Key to Fixing Broken Bones Image: iStockPhoto

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!

Subscribe

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2022 Kalmbach Media Co.