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Honolulu, Hawaii, United States, 2006/11/01 - Thanks to camels. A research group at the University of Munich has succeeded in developing much smaller molecules for antigen detection in living cells.
Antibodies are large Y-shaped proteins used by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign objects like bacteria and viruses. Each antibody recognizes a specific antigen unique to its target. That makes them valuable tools for the analysis of biomolecules in research, diagnostics and therapy. However, antibodies are huge (150 kDa) biomolecules and are not functional within a living cell due to the reductive environment of the cytoplasm. Normally, antibodies are used to detect antigens on fixed an permeabilized cells (in other words: dead cells). But neither does that provide any information about the dynamic changes of the antigen within different stages of the cell cycle, nor about its overall mobility. A research group at the University of Munich has now succeeded in developing much smaller molecules for antigen detection in living cells.
Detection of particular antigens is a very common form of medical diagnostics and a very important tool in biomedical research. By combining the antibody for a specific biomolecular structure (e.g. a protein) with a marker, for instance a fluorescent dye, the presence of the structure within a cell or tissue can be demonstrated since the antibody will attach to its target. Unfortunately, this method doesn't work in living cells because the currently used conventional antibodies (produced mostly in mice, rabbits or goats) don't properly fold and assemble within living cells.
Dr. Ulrich Rothbauer from the Leonhardt-Lab at the LMU Biozentrum (University of Munich/Germany) explained the novel molecules: "We fused the antigen-recognizing fragment of heavy-chain antibodies from camels and alpakas with fluorescent proteins to create fluorescent, antigen-binding nanobodies that can be expressed in living cells."
Read the full article on the Nanowerk website.
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