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Artificial Antibodies
A polymer binds to toxins in the blood

Source: “Recognition, neutralization, and clearance of target peptides in the bloodstream of living mice by molecularly imprinted polymer nanoparticles: a plastic antibody”
Yu Hoshino et al.
Journal of the American Chemical Society 132: 6644-6645

Results: Studies in mice provide the first evidence that a lab-made antibody designed to bind to the bee-sting toxin melittin behaves like a natural antibody in animals.

Why it matters: Antibodies–proteins that bind tightly to specific targets–are widely used in diagnostics such as HIV tests and in treatments for cancer and other diseases. But they’re fragile and must be produced by living organisms, an expensive process. Stable artificial polymers that bind to specific molecules could bring down the price of medical diagnostics and broaden access to antibody therapies.

Methods: The researchers made a polymer with a high affinity for melittin by mixing the toxin with the polymer’s building blocks and triggering chemical reactions that link the building blocks together. The polymer grew around its target so that it was “imprinted” with the molecule’s shape. After being purified and tagged with a fluorescent molecule, the polymer was injected into mice that had previously been injected with melittin labeled in a different color. The researchers then used fluorescence imaging to track the molecules’ paths in real time. They determined that the artificial antibody bound to melittin in the blood and was then carried to the liver, the same path taken by natural antibodies.

Next steps: The researchers will use the same methods to make “plastic antibodies” that target other toxins more commonly associated with health risks.

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Credit: Seung Woo Lee, Shuo Chen, Paula Hammond, and Yang Shao-Horn

Tagged: Computing, Materials

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