Thursday, October 6, 2016

Genetically Engineered Cows: New Way to Combat Disease?

With the Ebola outbreak, various medical professionals turned to human plasma from individuals that had survived Ebola as a source of combatting Ebola in infected individuals. However, one of the problems with such approach is quantity of plasma available. An American startup, Sioux Falls-based SAB Biotherapeutics, however, has come up with a possible solution--genetically engineering cows to become “plasma factories.”  

The way that the cows become engineered is that the scientist will knock out a section of genes in the cows and replace them with a human artificial chromosome that will allow for human antibody production. After the chromosome is inserted, the cows will get vaccinated with a target disease antigen that will help lead to the production of antibodies, which the scientists can then collect to create a therapeutic drug. The cows will be able to produce between 300-1,000 more doses per month compared to a human, which could be very useful for future health outbreaks.

While the antibody production will take under 3 months, one of the main challenges will be the cost. A gram of antibodies is around $2,000, which is a fairly hefty price considering the target countries may tend to have weaker economies than the US. However, the WHO has recognized this interesting approach as a possible manner of responding to disease outbreaks so this may turn out to be really effective in future health events.

--Jeanette Rios

No comments: