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Nanobodies May Reduce Pain


New research experimented on mice has shown that a biological molecule called nanobodies can reduce pain and inflammation.  The scientists think this will be a new treatment for eliminating inflammatory pain in humans in the future.  “In experiments on mice, the nanobodies appeared to be more effective at controlling inflammation than either regular antibodies or the anti-inflammatory drugs that are typically used,” the researchers said. They added that the mini-antibodies can only be used to treat inflammatory bowel disease, chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and other types of inflammatory conditions. They also tested it in a sample of human blood and discovered that the nanobodies were 1,000 times stronger in preventing the release of inflammatory molecules than comparable, miniature molecule drug candidates.  Friedrich Knoc-Nolte from the University Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf led the research and published the findings in the Journal of Science Translational Medicine on November 23rd 2016. He said “Nanobodies have special properties that stand out from conventional antibodies. They are fully biodegraded into non-toxic products”.

Inflammation is the way the body’s immune system reacts to injury.  It sends leucocytes and different molecules to heal damaged tissue and deter invading pathogens, which then in turn causes inflammation.  Chronic inflammation could lead to asthma, allergies, atherosclerosis as well asdifferent kinds of autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes.  An Autoimmune disease means that the immune system attacks itself because it thinks its tissue is a pathogen.  Researchers are trying to reduce the symptoms of these conditions by controlling inflammation.  The cells responsible for this inflammation are called P2X7.  In the past scientists’ have tried to create drugs that impede P2X7, but unfortunately, they have been unsuccessful. The reason for this is that the drugs that were tested integrated with other molecules, as well as with P2X7.  This caused unpleasant side effects.  Antibodies, which are proteins that tend to bond with most molecules, were also unable to block P2X7.  This deemed the description of P2X7 as a “tough target” in the journal article. The researchers then decided to try nanobodies, which are a minute fragment of an antibody.

Nanobodies were developed about 15 years ago, from antibodies in camels, llamas and alpacas.  Like antibodies, nanobodies can choose what they want to bind to, which then lowers side effects. Koch-Nolte and his fellow researchers have made nanobodies that inhibit P2X7 on immune cells.  They injected mice who were suffering from kidney inflammation and contact dermatitis with a nanobody which helped to reduce their inflammation and pain with no obvious side effects.  The scientists then tested the same nanobody in a sample of human blood with immune cells.   The researchers added that “because P2X7 is implicated in a host of inflammatory diseases, blocking its effect can have tremendous therapeutic potential for the millions of people who suffer from such diseases.”


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