As scientific and medical teams around the world race to find preventions, treatments, and cures for SARS-CoV-2, I did get excited by this extremely novel research that is being done at my own local university / hospital, UCSF. It needs to be tested, of course, but it’s exciting to read about such a different approach.
As the world awaits vaccines to bring the COVID-19 pandemic under control, UC San Francisco scientists have devised a novel approach to halting the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the disease. Led by UCSF graduate student Michael Schoof, a team of researchers engineered a completely synthetic, production-ready molecule that straitjackets the crucial SARS-CoV-2 machinery that allows the virus to infect our cells.
The idea that llamas, camels, and other animals have completely different ways of managing their immune systems reminds me of my past concerns about the idea of engineering animals to produce medicines in their bodies for us to extract. That always felt entirely too risky, because we lack a deep understanding of their diseases. When you think of big pandemics, you’ll see why I say this: bird flu! swine flu! chicken pox! See the pattern? Zoonotic diseases, including our current global pandemic, are a serious global human health concern, so playing around with animal tissues without understanding that has always seemed unwise.
It seems like the research highlighted in this article can improve our understanding of animal immune systems in addition to potentially understanding zoonotic diseases, which should be beneficial. The new treatment also wouldn’t require needles, as any new vaccine may have supply chain problems for delivery into the patient, based on current information. Yaay, pursuit of knowledge!