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Researches at UW-Madison Say Antibody-Like Proteins in Sharks Can Help Prevent Coronavirus

Sunday, December 19th, 2021 -- 9:00 AM


(WMTV) Researchers at the University of Wisconsin- Madison say antibody-like proteins in sharks can help prevent the virus that causes the coronavirus.

UW-Madison explained that the proteins, known as VNARs, are taken from the immune system of sharks. Researchers found these proteins can prevent the virus that causes COVID-19, its variants and other related coronaviruses from infecting humans.

Aaron LeBeau, a UW–Madison professor of pathology who helped lead the study, explained that creating treatments for animal-borne illnesses ahead of time can help prevent future outbreaks, including of the coronavirus.

“These small antibody-like proteins can get into nooks and crannies that human antibodies cannot access,” says LeBeau. “They can form these very unique geometries. This allows them to recognize structures in proteins that our human antibodies cannot.”

The study published on Thursday shows that the shark proteins were able to completely neutralize a coronavirus that currently circulates only in bats. The new VNARs will not immediately be available in people, but researchers noted they can help prepare for future outbreaks and bolster people’s ability to halt infection.

LeBeau and his team worked with researchers at the University of Minnesota and Elasmogen, a biomedical company in Scotland that is working on developing the proteins for treatment. The team published its findings in Nature Communications.

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