Discover the World’s Finest Wool – HOW ALPACAS HELP WITH CANCER RESEARCH

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

The Alpaca is a South American breed belongs to the camel family and was kept as pets by Andean people for its gleaming wool. They are soft and adorable. Their intellect and docile nature make them really enjoyable animals. Alpacas are sylphlike bodied animals with long neck and legs, small heads and pointed ears. Alpacas use their body language to convey their message, and spitting is usual when they are in pain, terrified or want to show supremacy. Alpacas are social animals; therefore, they live in groups comprised of male, female, and their babies. They are initially from Peru but can be found worldwide because of their adaptability to different environments. It is known that selective breeding was used more than 6000 years ago to develop alpacas, which is profoundly influenced by the vicuna.

Alpaca vs Llama

Alpacas are often confused with llama. However, they are different from each other in many ways such as Alpacas are strikingly shorter than the llama, and unlike llamas, Alpacas are only bred for their fiber and not to be working animals. Another differential factor among the two is their ears. Alpacas have stick straight up ears, whereas llamas have ears that are folded over like bananas.

Moreover, llamas have thicker wool, whereas Alpacas have soft and fine wool, which is appropriate for making sweaters, blankets, hats, socks, ponchos, and a variety of knitted and woven items. There are approximately 22 color types in Alpacas, from black, blue to tans and white. Due to the durability and softness of their fiber, it is expensive, and Alpaca is one of the sturdiest animal fibers.

The Huacaya and the Suri

There are two types of Alpacas: Huacaya and Suri; the former is more common among the two, universally 98 percent of the Alpacas are Huacaya, and the major difference between the two is the type of fleece they produce. Huacaya grows a soft and fluffy fleece in the shape of tightly locked curls whereas, Suri has a long fleece that raises downwards, giving the impact of curtains.

Suri - Alpaca
Suri - Alpaca
Huacaya Alpacas
Huacaya Alpacas

The immune system of the alpacas

A recent study shows that Alpaca’s immune system is extraordinarily unique because it has the potential to treat various life-threatening diseases such as Autism, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Cancer.

For quite some time, researchers have worked towards discovering several antibodies inhibitors to stop epidermal growth factor (EGF) receptors, but they lose their effectiveness after some time.

Therefore, researchers have turned their attention towards nature to solve this problem, and they have found out that Alpacas have the capacity to naturally produce antibodies, also referred to as nanobodies, because they are much smaller in size than normal antibodies. Furthermore, they are inexpensive and can be easily produced in large quantities, unlike traditional antibodies.

Also, these nanobodies are effective against EGF, which is an abnormally regulated protein in cancer cells. Antibodies produced by alpacas have inimitable features. They can be used for research and therapeutic purposes. Also, a group of researchers has been learning to understand how these antibodies help to regulate the PPP2R5D enzyme, which is related to several types of cancers, Alzheimer’s, autism, and other diseases.


Research History

Back in 1989, two university undergrads were asked to test camel blood serum, and they found out that antibodies were also present in alpacas and llamas.

After 30 years, researchers at Boston and MIT revealed that these antibodies were shrunk to create nano bodies that could provide a solution in the cancer field by getting CAR-T cell therapies functional for solid tumors. CAR-T (chimeric antigen receptor) cell therapy, which is most favorable for treating blood cancers, inherently taking the patient’s own T cell to attack cancer cells.

But CAR-T cells were not good enough to eradicate solid tumors. It’s been challenging to obtain proteins on solid tumors that are particular to cancer, and that could act as safe targets. Another barrier that protects the solid tumors is a web of proteins in the form of an extracellular matrix.

In 2013, when nanobodies got released from a Belgian team after the patent got expired, many people stepped into the competition and began to realize the value of the unique features of nanobodies. One valuable characteristic of these nanobodies is their enhanced targeting abilities.

Ploegh and his team at Boston, in collaboration with Noo Jalikhani and Richard Hynes at MIT’s cancer research center, have used nanobodies to incorporate imaging agents, permitting an accurate picture of metastatic cancers. The team aimed these nanobodies on the extracellular matrix that surrounds the tumor instead of the cancer cells.

Such signs are usual to tumors but are not found on normal cells. Ploegh’s lab is targeting those factors that are a hurdle to treat solid tumors by creating the CAR-T cells that are embossed with nanobodies that identify proteins surrounding the tumor environment, carrying the signals guiding them to kill any cell they are required to.

The scientists presented that the antibodies from camel and alpacas can endure the severe environment inside cells, unlike human antibodies or of most other animals. For years researchers have been inducing human and mouse antibodies on viruses but failed to get the desired results because the antibodies would lose their targeting ability.

Nanobodies are a field of research with the potential to help develop new cancer therapeutics.

Monoclonal antibodies are an essential part of the immune defense. They specifically recognize certain features on pathogens, cells and foreign substances. Physicians use this property in cancer diagnostics because antibodies also recognize typical features on tumor cells. They are also playing an increasingly important role in cancer therapy. Monoclonal antibodies are relatively large at 150 kDa, with two heavy chains and two light chains folded into constant and variable domains.

In contrast, Nanobodies are much smaller. Since they consist of only a single variable domain and weigh only 15 kDa, they offer high stability, high solubility and strong in vivo tissue penetration. They thus enable research and tumor control that is not possible with conventional antibodies.

Antibodies and viral infection. Immune defense of the body. Y – Shaped Antigens
Antibodies and viral infection. Immune defense of the body. Y-Shaped Antigens

Producing nanobodies with the help of bacteria

In principle, the method of obtaining nanobodies from antibodies of alpacas has the potential to at least partially eliminate the need for current antibody production in animals.

So far, tens of thousands of experimental animals are used every year to produce antibodies on a large scale. The antibodies are collected from the animals’ blood and processed. This is time-consuming and ethically controversial, as the animals ultimately do not survive the continuous blood sampling.

On the other hand, the nano-bodies, once obtained from a small blood sample of an alpaca, can be multiplied as often as desired in the laboratory using bacteria. As in conventional antibody production, an alpaca is first vaccinated with a purified antigen. The animals hardly feel the small sting, and the purified antigens are modified so that they are harmless to the alpaca.

About two months later, about 100 millilitres of blood is taken from the alpaca – that is about a fifth of the amount people give away when they donate blood. The blueprints for the nano-bodies are then isolated from this in the laboratory.

Both the vaccination and the blood donation only take a few minutes for the animal. Afterward, it can return to the herd on the pasture.

More research necessary

A rare class of antibodies, small and stable, produced by camels, alpacas, and related species, was mentioned in a recent study. Researchers have found that antibodies from camelids do not lose their binding specificity when they contact a virus, which opens the way to directing these antibodies to exact tumor markers.

Much more work and caution are needed before scientists can offer effective cancer treatment. However, it cannot be ruled out that we will have a powerful cancer treatment in the next ten or twenty years, initiated by the alpaca immune system.

Angora Rabbits black and white

Angora Rabbit

Angora rabbits are one of the oldest domestic breeds in the rabbit family. The Angora rabbit’s origin lies in Ankara, …
Read More
ebony girl in Cashmere sweater

How to care for Cashmere

How to care for Cashmere – ★What you need to know! How to wash cashmere✓ How to dry and store …
Read More
Merino wool socks colored

Which socks are best to wear for everyday or sports? – Three tips for your next sock purchase

They are the daily companion of your feet and shoes: Socks are always in action and must withstand a lot …
Read More
crochet baby gloves

Crochet baby gloves: Two easy crochet patterns

Crochet baby gloves: 2 easy crochet patterns Crochet Patterns for Baby GlovesEven the little ones feel the chill of the …
Read More
Alpaca Sweater vs Cashmere Sweater XL

Alpaca Sweater vs Cashmere Sweater

There are no better examples of superior wool materials than the alpaca and cashmere, they’re both in a league of …
Read More
woman sleepin in Wool blankets

With which blanket do I sleep best?

With which blanket do I sleep best? Why is the blanket so essential for a healthy sleep? Comforters thermal insulation …
Read More
Buying Alpaca in Peru

Where to buy the best Alpaca in Peru? – Shopping in Cusco

Where to buy the best Alpaca in Peru? – Shopping in Cusco Where to buy souvenirs and artisan handicrafts in …
Read More
sustainable Merino wool

How do I recognize sustainably produced wool clothing?

How do I recognize sustainably produced wool? Recognizing sustainably produced wool clothingProcessing sheep’s wool into clothing has a long tradition …
Read More

A horn of merino wool yarn

Merino Wool

Merino Wool Discover the World’s Finest Wool – Merino – Merino WoolThe production of clothes is enormously harmful to the …
Read More
Baby Blanket brown

Alpaca Baby Blankets

Alpaca Baby Blankets & Alpaca Duvets Alpaca Clothing Coats and Ponchos Sweater and Cardigans Alpaca Accessoirs Alpaca Blankets Baby Blankets …
Read More
white angora knitting

Angora Wool

Angora Wool Discover the World’s Finest Wool – Angora Wool A Guide to Angora Wool: Everything You Need To Know …
Read More

Merino Accessoirs

Merino Accessoirs Merino Clothing Jackets and Sweaters Baselayer and Underwear Merino Accessoirs Merino Blankets Merino Baselayer With a baselayer made …
Read More

Did you enjoy reading about: HOW ALPACAS HELP WITH CANCER RESEARCH

What is your opinion? We are very much interested in reading from you – leave us a comment.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

New Arrivals

2019 collection

  • Merino wool can absorb about 30% of its own weight in moisture!
  • Merino wool keeps fresh and has an antibacterial effect!
  • Merino wool provides UV protection!
  • Merino wool is extremely breathable!

The Secrets Of Knitting Like a Pro

Best Guide if you’re a complete beginner and want to learn how to knit fast or if you can already knit some basic patterns but want to increase your skills!

Mother's Day is May 9

Gifts for Mom, Hugs for You

*Affiliate links


Ridge Merino

15% OFF

Outdoor apparel made from natural merino wool fiber that is renewable and biodegradable.

2019 collection

Ridge Merino’s mission is to develop high-quality, high-value Merino wool apparel that performs as well in daily life as it does in the wildest outdoor conditions. 

Merino wool is the gold standard in terms of athletic performance apparel – noted for its breathability, warmth and comfort. 



2021 Merino Wool collection

Merino sweaters and cardigans made of the finest merino wool.

Timeless design and urban cuts. The excellent quality of merino knit sweaters could make one your favorite garment.