Alpaca nanobodies successfully treats rheumatoid arthritis and gout

April 21, 2022
Alpaca nanobodies successfully treats rheumatoid arthritis and gout

Mini-antibodies, or nanobodies, from wooly creatures called alpacas have been found to tamp down excessive inflammation in mice. An international team of scientists from the Universities of Bonn and São Paulo, in Germany and Brazil, respectively, have developed a promising countermeasure using alpaca nanobodies to treat inflammatory conditions including arthritis and cancer.

The typical immune response in human cells begins when large molecular complexes made up of so-called ASC proteins, or ASC specks, trigger the accumulation of large numbers of messenger substances, and form holes in the cell membrane so the messenger molecules can escape to alert the immune system.

“At some point, the cell basically explodes and empties its entire contents into the tissue. The messenger substances that are now abruptly released then act like a last great cry for help. This triggers the immune system to mount a strong inflammatory response that contains the infection,” said Bernardo Franklin of the Institute of Innate Immunity at the University Hospital Bonn.

“Their [ASC specks] activity activates the immune system even after the threat has been averted,” Franklin added. “This can result in chronic inflammation, which severely damages the tissue.”

Alpaca nanobodies were later found to target and neutralise ASC specks, in cell cultureand mice experiments.

According to the scientists, nanobodies are much smaller than normal antibodies and so are excellent for breaking up molecular complexes. Moreover, nanobodies do not stimulate the immune system nor exacerbate inflammation.

The scientists also cite a 2018 study which demonstrated how alpaca nanobodies can bind to and inhibit a key driver in a range of cancers called epidermal growth factor (EGF). More recently, alpaca nanobodies have been leveraged to develop new treatments for COVID-19.

Alpaca nanobodies could additionally treat or prevent neurological conditions – its target protein, ASC specks, are thought to cause damage in the brain and contribute to the formation of amyloid beta clumps, which are aggregations of proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Read: Reducing risk of osteoarthritis with healthy lifestyle/good nutrition

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