On a farm outside Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a herd of cloned, genetically engineered cattle are busy incubating antibodies against the Ebola virus.
The cattle have been genetically engineered with human DNA so that their bodies don’t produce cattle antibodies but human antibodies. They’re cloned to make a herd of genetically identical, part-human animals.
Then they are vaccinated against various deadly diseases such as Ebola. Their bodies produce antibodies in response to these vaccines, and the hope is these antibodies can be used to treat people with the diseases. These animals produce very high levels of human antibody,” said Eddie Sullivan, president and CEO of SAb Biotherapeutics, the company that developed the cattle.
It’s not a given that this is going to work for Ebola,” said Connie Schmaljohn, a senior research scientist at U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases which is working in partnership with SAb therapeutics. “The first mouse studies have shown we can protect mice one day after they been infected but not two days after they have been infected with a single dose,” Schmaljohn told NBC News. Now, the team is giving the mice a dose a day to see if that helps.
The next step will be to test the approach in monkeys. But if it works, it could be quickly deployed for testing in people, Schmaljohn says.
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