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Plastic antibodies attack bee stings

16 June 2010

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Category: Research & medical benefits

bee.jpgImmune system molecules made from plastic have functioned successfully in the first tests involving mice.

Infections are fought using antibodies in response to antigens which are foreign or unrecognisable molecules in the body. Some antigens are more difficult to attack but now researchers propose plastic antibodies as a solution.

The team studied the immune response to the antigen melittin (found in bee venom) in mice. They were able to develop the specific antibody using the process of molecular printing, often likened to leaving a footprint in wet concrete. This involved mixing melittin with monomers, molecules which can bind to other molecules to form long chains, and leaving the plastic parts to harden. The melittin poison was then leached out leaving a mould with tiny toxin shaped spaces, available to attach to the toxin in an immune response.

Mice were injected with the antigen, and some were then given a dose of the plastic melittin antibody. The mice that received the nano-sized antibodies had a significantly higher survival rate than those that did not. Researchers believe these results show plastic antibodies can be created and used to aid a variety of immune responses.