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Llamas May Help Treat Disease


Tomorrow's treatments for cancer, arthritis, and a wide range of other diseases may well come from an exotic source. Llamas, a South American pack animal, are on the front line of medical research.

A biotechnology company in Belgium is developing drugs from the antibodies of llamas. Llama antibodies are much smaller than the antibodies found in humans and other animals, making them potentially more useful for drug therapies.

No one knows why llama antibodies are smaller. Most antibodies are molecular giants that must be grown in cultures, making them expensive to produce. Antibody drugs can cost as much as $38,000 a year per patient. Researchers hope that the new technology, called "nanobodies," will provide a new generation of antibody-based drugs that are easier to produce, and more affordable.

The new llama-based drug therapies could be available within a few years. As scientific advances are made in biology and medicine, drug treatments are emerging from unexpected sources in nature.

Script by Andrew Porterfield

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