Camel blood may help fight against cancer


Staff member

Soon, camels might help scientists in developing a novel gene therapy against cancer. Members of the camelid family have particular heavy-chain antibodies in their blood known as nanobodies that may serve as 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 Department of Pharmaceutics and Analytical Chemistry, 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. Futhermore, the research supports our aim for rational design and engineering of effective and safer nanomedicines for the future,” said Professor Moein Moghimi.

Compared to other protein-based drugs, nanobodies are very small. They are 10 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 targeting of cancer cells.

The study describes how 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. The efficacy of these nanoparticles is now being tested in animal models. The research is published in the Journal of Controlled Release.