A recent study shows that shark antibodies, known as VNARs, haven proven to be effective in halting the infection of WIV1-CoV in human cells. WIV1-CoV is a type of coronavirus, currently only circulating in bats, where SARS-CoV-2 likely originated from. The study has shown that while this method of COVID-19 prevention is not ready to be put to use yet, it can be used in future SARS outbreaks. 

The anti-SARS-CoV-2 VNARs, unlike human antibodies, are very small and are able to fit in tiny nooks where human antibodies can not fit. The VNARs have the ability to bind to the infectious coronavirus proteins and block their ability to connect with and infect human cells. These shark antibodies were tested against SARS-CoV-2 and a different version of this virus that is unable to replicate in cells, known as a pseudotype. After testing a pool of billions of possible VNARs, three effective candidates were identified. 

Tiburón azul (Prionace glauca), canal Fayal-Pico, islas Azores, Portugal, 2020-07-27, DD 28

The most effective VNAR is called 3B4. The 3B4 VNAR attaches itself to a small groove on the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus; this process effectively blocked the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein from binding to the human cell. This process is very similar to the actions of a competitive inhibitor. As we learned in AP Biology,  a competitive inhibitor is when a compound, similar to the substrate, competes for the same active site.

These shark VNARs are so important to the research against future and current coronavirus outbreaks because it is effective against all variants of this virus. As stated earlier, these antibodies stop the infection of  WIV1-CoV in human cells; because it halts the infection of the virus where COVID-19 likely originated from, it will be effective to all COVID-19 variants. Additionally, with more research these different antibodies can be used together if proven to be more effective. The shark antibodies are cheaper and easier to manufacture compared to human antibodies. While this method of protection against COVID-19 has yet to be tested on humans, with more research this could be the new way that humans protect themselves against all SARS-CoV viruses to come. What do you think?



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