Llama antibodies warn of terrorists attacks?
www.chinaview.cn 2006-12-06 16:37:12

    BEIJING, Dec. 6 (Xinhuanet) -- Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory think they may be able to use llama, camel and shark antibodies as warnings of biological attacks by terrorists.

    "We're interested in the development of biosensors for biothreats in the field, and hopefully these antibodies will help lead to more rugged antibodies that have longer shelf lives and not require refrigeration," explained biochemist Ellen Goldman.

    An antibody is a complex protein custom made to attach to a specific target. Immune cells in the blood and lymph use antibodies either to identify enemies for attacks or to directly bind to and neutralize intruders.

    Scientists already develop antibodies for use in medicines against cancers and other diseases or in sensors to warn of dangerous microbes and chemicals. Unfortunately, high temperatures break down the antibodies, limiting extended use in the field.

    Llama, camel and shark antibodies consist only of chains of heavy proteins. They don't have the additional lighter protein chains that more complicated antibodies from other species use. Their relative simplicity makes them stronger and more capable of withstanding temperatures of almost 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Goldman and virologist Andrew Hayhurst at the Southwest Foundation for Biomedical Research and their colleagues investigated llama antibodies. Past studies revealed that the binding regions of these antibodies and those from camels and sharks are unusually small, just one-tenth the size of common human antibodies.

    The researchers generated more than a billion kinds of antibody binding regions in the laboratory based on genes taken from small blood samples from llamas.

    After testing their antibodies against various biological threats, the researchers found they could  successfully identify antibodies targeting cholera toxin, a smallpox virus surrogate and ricin within days.

    The researchers wrote they could advance their technology to isolate useful antibodies against emerging threats within hours. Goldman added that while the antibodies they have tested successfully bind to their targets, they hope to develop antibodies that bind more strongly.

    The findings are scheduled to be detailed in the Dec. 14 issue of the journal Analytical Chemistry.


Editor: Gareth Dodd
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