Science!: Sharks and Nanoparticles

Lauren Admire | 14 Jun 2010 21:00

Scientists have engineered the first plastic antibodies and, better yet, they appear to work. Only 1/50,000th the size of the width of a human hair, artificial antibodies can be injected into the bloodstream and function nearly as well as natural antibodies.

Antibodies are our body's first source of protection. Whether you're suffering from allergies or fighting off a cold, antibodies identify and fight antigens. However, sometimes our immune systems can become overwhelmed and we aren't able to produce enough antibodies to counteract the viruses or bacteria assailing our system. This is where plastic antibodies just might be able to help.

Using tiny plastic nanoparticles, researchers imprinted the antigen melittin (the toxin in bee venom) on the surface of the nanoparticle. The imprint allows the antibody to identify and attach itself to antigens in the blood. The researchers then gave laboratory rats a whopper of a bee sting and an injection of the plastic antibodies. The rats that received the injection were far more likely to survive than the rats that didn't.

If further studies can conclusively show that plastic antibodies work, this could be a huge breakthrough. Artificial antibodies could be used to supplement immune systems that are unable to produce enough antibodies to counteract rapid virus production. The only caveat is that the plastic antibodies do not work as effectively as natural antibodies.

Source: Popular Science


Lauren Admire is one of the few people that actually like getting shots.

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