Cattle genetically modified to carry human DNA may be the answer scientists have been looking for to cure the deadly Ebola virus.
A team of researchers genetically engineered cattle on a farm outside of Sioux Falls, South Dakota with human antibodies. The genetic modification makes the cattle only produce human antibodies (they don't make any cow antibodies). The cattle were then cloned to make a herd of genetically identical, part-human animals, reported NBC News.
The herd of cattle are vaccinated against Ebola, which means their bodies are producing antibodies that fight against the virus.
There is no cure for Ebola yet, but one treatment being used in West Africa is a blood transfusion from a survivor to a sick patient because the survivor would have the antibodies in their blood to fight off the virus. It's unclear if the treatment is actually working, reported NBC News.
The researchers from the new study believe that the approach with the genetically engineered cows would work in the same way as the survivor's blood, except the cow can produce more blood per day.
"From these animals, we can collect 30 to 60 liters of plasma each month," Sullivan told NBC News. "That translates into something between 500 to 1,000 human doses per month per animal."
The researchers are currently working with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), to test the approach against hantavirus, a rare killer virus that causes regular outbreaks, reported NBC News.
Experiments on finding an Ebola vaccine and treatment have been put on a fast track since the virus began taking over West Africa early last year.
Since the outbreak begun there have been more than 8,400 deaths and 21,200 cases in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone combined, according to the World Health Organization's latest situation report.
The approach isn't yet guaranteed to work and is being questioned by experts in the field - especially since the blood still has some different characteristics than human blood.