A team of scientists from the United States and Japan has created a plastic antibody that can function in the bloodstream of living animals to identify and fight a variety of antigens, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Popular Science reports:
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.
Such synthetic antibodies may offer the potential for creating simple, custom-tailored plastic particles to fight viruses, bacteria and other troublesome antigens.
The research was conducted by scientists at UC Irvine in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Shizuoka in Japan and Stanford University.