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Nanobodies from Camels Show Promise in Safely Killing Cancer Cells

by Editor1 last modified July 20, 2011 - 14:22

Nanobodies produced by camels are showing to be highly effective in and safe for fighting certain types of cancers. Scientists at the University of Copenhagen are using them to develop therapies to fight breast and colon cancers.

Nanobodies from Camels Show Promise in Safely Killing Cancer Cells

Researchers in the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Pharmaceutics and Analytical Chemistry have designed nanoparticle systems with nanobodies that express a high-specificity for the cancer marker Mucin-1, which is connected to breast and colon cancer.

The work is based on research that shows members of the camelid family have nanobodies, or heavy-chain antibodies, in their blood that may serve as therapeutic proteins. Nanobodies can prove extremely effective in drug formations because they can be easily attached to other proteins and nanoparticles by simple chemical procedures, according to Prof. Moein Moghimi head of the Centre for Pharmaceutical Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology (CPNN) at the University of Copenhagen.

Nanobodies offer several other advantages, such as being ten times smaller than intact antibodies and less sensitive to temperature and pH changes, he added.

“This is a very effective and a highly promising approach in experimental cancer gene therapy, while minimizing adverse-related reactions to cancer nanomedicines,” Prof. Moghimi said in a statement. “We have taken the first step, but of course more work is needed to support the efficacy of this system for cancer treatment,”

In the work, the team linked a Mucin-1 nanobody to specialized nanoparticles made from polymers carrying a killer gene known as truncated-Bid. When expressed, the gene-product triggers cells to commit suicide.

The research also supports CPNN’s aim for rational design and engineering of effective and safer nanomedicines for the future, he added. CPNN is supported by the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

To avoid non-specific cell-killing, the killer gene expression was under the control of the cancer-specific Mucin-1 promoter. These “transcriptional targeting” prevents normal tissue toxicities associated with other cancer treatments. The research found the nanoformulation to be “highly effective in killing cancer cells expressing the Mucin-1 marker,” Prof. Moghimi, while no harm was done to the normal cells or cancer cells that did not express the Mucin-1 marker.

The efficacy of these nanoparticles is now being tested in animal models.

Another exciting development is that the team has now purified a second and a highly effective nanobody against another cancer marker (Her-2) expressed by certain breast tumors.

The work was recently published in the Journal of Controlled Release. Post doctoral candidates Davoud Ahmadvand and Ladan Parhamifar, from the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, were also involved in this work.