Researchers have introduced a novel method of producing miniaturized antibodies. This has opened up paths for a new class of potential disease treatments.
The smallest manmade antibodies were derived only from alpacas, llamas and sharks until now, however, molecules isolated from a cow's immune cells are about five times smaller leading to an unusual feature of a bovine antibody called knob domain. Since the medical implications of the diminutive size of the newfound antibodies are huge, they can trigger destruction of the invasive microbes, bind to the sites on pathogens where regular antibody molecules cannot reach and may also be able to gain access to sites that are inaccessible to larger antibodies.
Antibodies comprises of a chain of amino acids that together form a loopy structure which bind to antigen targets to activate the immune system. These bovine antibodies have more loops than most of antibodies, among which, 10% include a knob domain. These bundles which are tightly packed play a crucial role in binding.
According to Jean van den Elsen, professor at the University of Bath’s Department of Biology and Biochemistry, these findings were surprising since it was the first time that they have been able to miniaturize antibodies as these knobs can bind their target as complete antibodies. Through the process of sorting and deep sequencing, the natural antibodies were mined from cows and later the resulting bodies were manufactured in laboratories. While explaining the results, Professor van den Elsen said that these structures are very sturdy and tightly packed so they not only get better space than regular antibodies but may also live longer. Alastair Lawson, UCB lead on the study, added that this research has reported the smallest antibody that had ever been discovered and the team is therefore very excited about the results and their potential.