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Tiny antibodies could have big potential

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    Antibodies play an important role in our immune system by protecting us from infection. Some antibodies are also used to treat certain types of cancer and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

    Smaller antibodies are generally considered by scientists to have greater therapeutic potential as they may be better able to bind to sites on viruses or bacteria that larger antibodies cannot. They may also reach parts of the body that are inaccessible to regular antibody molecules.

    Now, researchers at UCB and the University of Bath have discovered the smallest clinically relevant antibody fragments ever reported. In a new paper published in PLOS Biology, our scientists detail a novel method for producing miniaturised antibodies. The discovery could pave the way for the development of a new class of treatments for disease.

    Until now, the smallest manmade antibodies (known as monoclonal antibodies) were derived from llamas, alpacas and sharks. The breakthrough molecules isolated from cows by scientists from UCB and Bath are up to five times smaller.  

    The potential medical implications of the new antibodies’ diminutive size are huge. Not only do these novel monoclonal antibodies have a size advantage over regular monoclonal antibodies, but they are also more robust, meaning they remain stable for longer.

    The exciting breakthrough will trigger further research which may eventually lead to trials of new antibodies to treat patients with serious illnesses. It is an example of UCB’s ongoing commitment to collaboration and the power of partnership in driving medical knowledge forward.

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