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Camels, llamas and sharks make antibodies smaller than humans’. After being discovered in the late 1980s, they have proven quite useful in the lab. In living organisms, their small size enables these “nanobodies” to bind to molecules and get into cellular spaces that larger antibodies can’t. Mitch Leslie’s article in Science describes a llama antibody’s role in research that was awarded a Nobel Prize – and how nanobodies may help human patients. getAbstract recommends this article to anyone curious about how new technologies get harnessed by researchers and clinicians.

In this summary, you will learn

  • Where nanobodies come from,
  • How nanobodies differ from antibodies, and
  • How nanobodies are being used in the lab and the clinic.
 

About the Author

Mitch Leslie writes for Science magazine about cell biology and immunology.

 

Summary

Camels, llamas and sharks make antibodies much smaller than humans’.

In the late 1980s, students at the Free University of Brussels didn’t want to analyze human blood for a lab exam; they were afraid of diseases and squeamish about killing mice. So the professor dug up some dromedary camel serum from a freezer for them to analyze. In it, they found antibodies that were smaller and structurally different from humans’. Those findings were surprising at first but could be confirmed and were published in a 1993 Nature paper. Whereas  antibodies typically consist of two heavy chains and two light chains, these “nanobodies” lacked light chains.


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