Researchers at the Butantan Institute are working to identify antibodies that could be used in compounds to fight the new coronavirus. The so-called neutralizing monoclonal antibodies will be produced by defense cells selected by the researchers, which are in the blood of people who have cured the disease.
“We have to identify B lymphocytes [células de defesa] that produce antibodies against the coronavirus. And, among these, identify those that produce antibodies that are actually able to neutralize the action of the virus and are able to block the virus from entering the cell, which are what we call neutralizing antibodies, those that actually neutralize the virus, ”explained researcher Ana Maria Moro, from the Butantan Institute, who coordinates the study.
The work follows the principle of passive transfer of immunity, which is the same as the transfusion of blood plasma from people cured of covid-19, which contains antibodies against the disease, to treat infected patients. The use of plasma is an immediate treatment option, which is already being tested on patients in Brazil and depends on constant donations to maintain stocks.
The identification of neutralizing antibodies, on the other hand, should take at least one year, but it will enable greater precision in the treatment. According to Ana Maria, the antibody has already been selected and is only the neutralizing type.
The researcher explained that the use of monoclonal antibodies is not an approach for immediate use, but it is a promising approach. “Monoclonal antibodies are produced accurately, homogeneously, everyone will receive that same product, which is 100% pure [para combater especificamente o coronavírus]”, said.
That way, the antibodies would be produced in the laboratory. “We seek, in people’s blood [curadas de covid-19], the lymphocytes that produce the specific antibodies and, from that, by genetic engineering, we created the cells in the laboratory producing specifically those antibodies. So they are standardized products, we need to do this in the laboratory, it takes time ”, explained the researcher.
With support from the São Paulo State Research Support Foundation (Fapesp), this study uses an existing platform created for the development of human monoclonal antibodies for different diseases. The platform is in an advanced stage to obtain monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of zika and tetanus.