Washington: Now, llamas can play an
important role in the fight against terror, as scientists have
developed a way to use the animal`s proteins that can detect
botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) -- the deadliest naturally
occurring toxins that have potential to be used as bio-weapons.
Scientists at Foundation for Biomedical Research (SFBR)
in Texas claimed to have developed the BoNT-detecting
substances or the antibodies -- proteins made by the body to
fight diseases -- found in llamas.
The llama antibodies, called single domain antibodies
(sdAb) or "nanobodies," are molecularly flexible, unlike
conventional antibodies, ScienceDaily reported.
"As such, sdAb may allow biosensors to be regenerable
and used over and over without loss of activity. Also, for
some types of BoNT, conventional antibodies are not generally
available and we are filling this biosecurity gap," said
Andrew Hayhurst, lead researcher and a virologist at the SFBR.
"Since some sdAb have been shown to have inhibitory
activity and can block toxin function, they may play a role as
part of a future anti-botulism treatment," Hayhurst wrote in
his research paper, published in the journal PLoS ONE.
BoNTs, which are about 100 billion times more toxic than
cyanide, directly hit the nervous system, resulting in
paralysis that can be so severe as to require life support on
a mechanical ventilator for weeks to months.
BoNTs are the only toxins in the federal Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention`s (CDC) `category A` list of
potential bioterror threats alongside anthrax, Ebola virus and
other infectious agents.
First Published: Friday, January 22, 2010, 14:28