Friday, February 20, 2015

Cow Immune System Inspires Potential New Therapies

News Brief by Steven Hefter

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found a potentially life-altering remedy for people who suffer from hormone deficiencies.  The research, which has recently been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, supports the hypothesis that human antibodies and hormones can be combined, a process that also occurs in cows. Humans with low hormone deficiencies need an outside source of human growth hormone (hGH) that usually comes in the form of an injection.  The problem is that the body rapidly breaks down hGH, meaning that daily injections may be needed to maintain the levels of hGH needed.  As expected, this worsens a person’s quality of life.  On the other hand, antibodies can remain in the body for weeks.  The researchers noticed something interesting about the bovine antibody structure from a 2013 study published by TSRI scientists; it has a round base with a long amino-acid chain pointing outwards.  At the end of this chain there is a “knob region” that supposedly binds to pathogens. The scientists wanted to see if they could switch the knob region with DNA from a human hormone, such as hGH.  To do so, they used recombinant DNA technology to unite hGH with the bovine antibody.  Since this combination was stable, the researchers tried to expand and not use any cow DNA in the next experiment.  They used Herceptin®, an anti-cancer antibody, as the antibody in this stage.  The hGH-antibody treatment worked better in rat models than did the hGH treatment alone, thus supporting the hypothesis that a hormone-antibody mixture can aid growth in humans. TSRI Research Associate Tao Liu, who is the co-author of this paper with Yong Zhang at Calibr, believes that this method can even be used to provide insulin to treat Type 2 Diabetes.  The future is exciting for the theory of an antibody-hormone complex. 

The Scripps Research Institute. "Cow immune system inspires potential new therapies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 February 2015. .
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