Researchers at the University of Bath in the UK and biopharma company UCB have found a way to produce miniaturised antibodies, opening the way for a potential new class of treatments for diseases.
Until now, the smallest humanmade antibodies (known as monoclonal antibodies, or mAbs) were derived from llamas, alpacas and sharks, but the breakthrough molecules isolated from the immune cells of cows are up to five times smaller. This is thanks to an unusual feature of a bovine antibody known as a knob domain.
The potential medical implications of the new antibodies’ diminutive size are huge. For instance, they may bind to sites on pathogens that regular antibody molecules are too large to latch on to, triggering the destruction of invasive microbes. They may also be able to gain access to sites of the body which larger antibodies can’t.
Antibodies consist of chains of amino acids (the building blocks