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Monday, 10 December, 2001, 19:21 GMT
Camels could help cure humans
Camel from the UAE
Camels give many deadly viruses the hump
By North Africa correspondent David Bamford

Scientists from the United Arab Emirates have proposed using one of the world's hardiest mammals - the camel - in the campaign to fight and eradicate human diseases.

Dead cattle in Cumbria
Camels are free from viruses such as foot and mouth
A team led by Dr Sabah Jassim, from the Zayed Complex for Herbal Research and Traditional Medicine, says camels are highly resistant to many deadly viral diseases and believes their antibodies could be used for new drugs.

Camels have a unique physiology that allows them to thrive in some of the world's harshest environments.

They can survive the perils of desert dehydration by storing water in their bloodstream; they can survive lack of food by holding extra fatty tissue in their humps; their milk stays fresh much longer than that of a cow.

Natural immunity

But as well as these advantages, they have immune systems that are so robust. They remain free from many of the viral diseases that affect other mammals, such as foot-and-mouth and rinderpest.

The antibodies that camels carry inside them are structurally much simpler than those of humans, and Dr Sabah Jassim suggests they could be much simpler to replicate artificially than human antibodies.

Writing in the British Institute of Biology's magazine, The Biologist, Dr Jassim says the small size of camel antibodies would also allow them to penetrate deep into human tissue and cells that would not be otherwise accessible.

He said the camel antibodies, by being transported from the desert sands into the laboratory test tube, had the potential to be a vital weapon against human diseases.

See also:

06 Feb 01 | Sci/Tech
'New' camel lives on salty water
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