Sunday SciKu | Llama Spit

Llama in Patagonia by RocketFuel Collective (CC0)

This week’s #sciku is more of a senryū. NIH researchers were able to isolate “nanobodies” against SARS-Cov-2 in a llama named Cormac. The immune systems of camelids produce unusually tiny antibodies, about a tenth the size of our own. Basically these are just the binding domain that sticks to the virus and not the tail that flags it for the rest of the immune system. Because these nanobodies are so small, they’re easy to synthesize and can be aerosolized in a nasal spray.

It would need be tested (extensively, in my opinion), but in theory we could inhale a squirt before higher-risk activities (like holiday dinners) to create a temporary barrier in our nose and lungs against becoming infected.

When I was a kid, my grandmother’s house backed up to a zoo. After holiday dinners, all the kids would go down the hill, cross some railroad tracks, and look at the animals from the back of their enclosures. The closest were the llamas, and they’d chase us as we ran back and forth along the fence, until they’d finally become annoyed enough to start spitting. PETA would not approve, but we were kids, and it was fun.

The third layer to this little senryū, I should say, doesn’t apply to my family now—we all get along just fine!

 

almost dodging
the angry llama spray—
Christmas dinner

 

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