Plastic Antibodies

Plastic nano-particles with cavities shaped like the molecule they are targeting can absorb and neutralize their target.


World’s first plastic antibody works in mice
– [newscientist.com]

Antibodies made entirely from plastic have saved the lives of mice injected with bee venom – the first time such a strategy has worked in live animals.

Researchers developing the antibodies say it is the first step towards customised antibodies for a host of other medical applications, from treating people who have been poisoned to combating infection.

Natural antibodies are made by the body’s immune system to lock onto a specific “antigen”. Likewise, the plastic antibodies contain cavities moulded in exactly the right shape to capture target molecules, in this case, melittin – the active agent in bee venom.

Plastic Fantastic: Synthetic Antibodies Recognize and Remove Toxins in Mice – [scientificamerican.com]

Using molecular imprinting—a process akin to leaving a footprint in wet cement—the researchers created melittin-shaped craters in tiny plastic dots. When injected into mice after a lethal dose of melittin, the plastic antibodies diminished melittin’s toxic effects and enhanced survival. “These results establish for thefirst time that a simple, nonbiological synthetic nanoparticle with antibody-like affinity and selectivity (that is, a plastic antibody) can effectively function in the bloodstream of living animals,” the researchers wrote in their report published online April 26 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Plastic Antibodies Shown to Fight Off Antigens in the Body Just Like the Real Thing – [popsci.com]

To counter these immune system shortcomings, the researchers took tiny plastic nanoparticles that had previously shown the ability to mimic natural antibodies. They then used a process known as molecular imprinting to stamp the shape of the antigen melittin, the primary toxin in bee venom, onto the antibody. By imprinting tiny antigen-shaped craters into the individual particles, the plastic antibodies were then finely tuned to attach themselves to those antigens in the blood.

The team then dosed a bunch of laboratory mice with lethal doses of melittin followed by an injection of the artificial antibodies. Those mice that received the antibodies showed a far higher survival rate, suggesting that the finely tuned plastic proteins can indeed track down and destroy threats within the living body.

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