Scientists Create Plastic Antibodies

IRVINE, Calif., June 22 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve developed the first plastic antibodies that have been successfully employed in live organisms to stop the spread of bee venom.

University of California-Irvine researchers say they designed the tiny polymeric particles to match and encase melittin — a peptide in bee venom that causes cells to rupture. Large quantities of melittin can lead to organ failure and death.

The researchers led by Professor Kenneth Shea and project scientist Yu Hoshino said they prepared the nanoparticles by molecular imprinting — a technique similar to plaster casting:

The scientists said they linked melittin with small molecules called monomers, solidifying the two into a network of long polymer chains. After the plastic hardened, they removed the melittin, leaving nanoparticles with minuscule melittin-shaped holes.

When injected into mice given high doses of melittin, the nanoparticles enveloped the matching melittin molecules before they could disperse and wreak havoc, thereby greatly reducing deaths among the rodents.

“Never before have synthetic antibodies been shown to effectively function in the bloodstream of living animals,” Shea said. “This technique could be utilized to make plastic nanoparticles designed to fight more lethal toxins and pathogens.”

The study that included Takashi Kodama of Stanford University and Hiroyuki Koide, Takeo Urakami, Hiroaki Kanazawa and Naoto Oku of Japan’s University of Shizuoka was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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