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Published on 19 July 2011

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Camel blood may help fight cancer

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Camel blood can help scientists in the fight against cancer, according to new research published in the Journal of Controlled Release.

Nanobodies produced from camel blood contain unique properties which can be used in future drug development, including those necessary to combat cancer.

Members of the camelid family have particular heavy-chain antibodies and these can be used to clone nanobodies, which are antibody-derived therapeutic proteins. One of the most powerful advantages of nanobodies is that they can be easily attached to other proteins and nanoparticles by simple chemical procedures.

Scientists at the University of Copenhagen have designed nanoparticle systems of smaller than 150nm that are decorated with nanobodies expressing high specificity for the cancer marker Mucin-1, which is connected to breast and colon cancer.

“This is a very effective and a highly promising approach in experimental cancer gene therapy, while minimising adverse-related reactions to cancer nanomedicines,” said lead researcher, Professor Moein Moghimi.

“Furthermore, the research supports our aim for rational design and engineering of effective and safer nanomedicines for the future. We have taken the first step, but of course more work is needed to support the efficacy of this system for cancer treatment.”

Compared to other protein-based drugs, nanobodies are very small. They are ten times smaller than intact antibodies. They are also less sensitive to temperature and pH changes and can be easily linked to nanoparticles and other proteins. These properties make nanobodies very interesting for the targeting of cancer cells.

In the study, a Mucin-1 nanobody was linked to specialised nanoparticles made from polymers carrying a killer gene known at truncated-Bid. When expressed, the gene product triggers cells to commit suicide.

However, the expression of the killer gene was under the control of the cancer-specific Mucin-1 promoter as to avoid non-specific cell killing. These procedures are also referred to as “transcriptional targeting”, which can prevent normal tissue toxicities associated with other cancer treatments. Indeed, the formulation proved to be highly effective in killing cancer cells expressing the Mucin-1 marker, 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. The team has also purified a second effective nanobody against another cancer marker (Her-2) expressed by certain breast tumours.



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