Scientists from the University Of Cambridge and researchers at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands have developed a ‘nanobody’ from a small fragment of a llama antibody, that is capable of fighting against HCMV, a virus which lies dormant in an estimated four out of five people. For most people the virus is harmless.
Although it normally doesn’t cause symptoms, for some people who are immunocomprimised the HCMV virus can heighten the risk of post transplant infection. The new ‘nanobodies’ created by scientists would combat this heightened risk of infection by effectively ‘chasing out’ the virus as it hides away from the immune system. This then enables immune cells to seek out and destroy the virus.
In the laboratory studies this was clearly demonstrated. Using blood infected with the virus, the scientists showed how the nanobody binded to the protein which enables the virus to be in its dormant state. The immune cells are then able to detect that the cell is ‘infected’ therefore prompting them to hunt down and kill the virus within the blood.
Already the first nanobody has been approved and introduced onto the market by a biopharmaceutical company named Ablynx, while other nanobodies are currently in clinical trials for a latter of diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and certain cancers.
Professor Martine Smit, also from from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, added: “We believe our approach could lead to a much-needed new type of treatment for reducing – and potentially even preventing – CMV infectious in patients eligible for organ and stem cell transplants.”