NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — They are like the immune system’s own supercharged superheroes. When a foreign invader attacks the body, the immune system uses antibodies to neutralize the pathogen. Now researchers believe alpacas may hold the key to studying and treating rare diseases.
Alpacas may be coveted for their wool, and maybe their personalities, but according to some researchers what’s in their blood may prove to be more valuable.
Brian Wadzinski, PhD, an Associate Professor of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University said, “Turns out that alpacas and other members of the camel family, old-world camels and llamas, have a very unique form of antibody.”
They have a heavy-chain-only antibody, which means it is easier to extract and isolate a fragment of that antibody.
Benjamin Spiller, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University explained, “It sort of enables the study of new diseases as they are being understood to be related to specific mutations.”
Such as Jordan’s syndrome, which affects about 100 kids worldwide. The team is using the alpaca antibodies to visualize and potentially regulate the gene product PPP2R5D, which is linked to the condition.
“Patients that have this syndrome known as Jordan’s syndrome, they are characterized both with intellectual disability, a large head, low muscle tone.”
The same gene that is linked to Jordan’s syndrome is also linked to autism, Alzheimer’s, and some forms of cancers. The team says with a quick blood sample from the alpacas they have …
“A plethora of different tools to be able to study. This will increase our understanding and hopefully pave the way for future development of treatments,” said Wadzinski.
Earlier this year, the first drug to use antibodies from the species camelid which include camels, llamas and alpacas, gained FDA approval. It is used to treat a rare blood clotting disorder called TTP.
Contributors to this news report include: Milvionne Chery, Field Producer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer and Editor.
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BACKGROUND: An antibody is a protein produced by the body’s immune system when it detects harmful substances, called antigens. Examples of antigens include microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses) and chemicals. Antibodies may be produced when the immune system mistakenly considers healthy tissue a harmful substance. When you have an autoimmune disorder, your immune system does not distinguish between healthy tissue and potentially harmful antigens. As a result, the body sets off a reaction that destroys normal tissues. The exact cause of autoimmune disorders is unknown. One theory is that some microorganisms or drugs may trigger changes that confuse the immune system. This may happen more often in people who have genes that make them more prone to autoimmune disorders.
DRUGS: According to Vanderbilt’s research news website, “A new drug to treat a blood disorder called acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura was developed using alpaca antibodies and gained FDA approval earlier this year.” Brian Wadzinski, PhD, Associate Professor of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University explained, Tthe number of antibody derived drugs has increased exponentially over the last several years. And as far as the antibodies derived from these camelids – I think they have a wide variety of not only applications but potential for developing various therapies. And there’s a number of different investigators and companies across the world that are working towards that goal.”
(Source: Brian Wadzinski, PhD & https://news.vanderbilt.edu/2019/08/13/meet-the-alpacas-that-could-cure-autism-alzheimers-and-cancer/)
NEW RESEARCH: Wadzinski talked about how research is bringing groups of separate people together, “I think one of the beautiful things about what we’ve been doing is it’s allowed us to engage three different groups of people, group of scientists here at Vanderbilt, a group of farmers out in rural Tennessee and then the families who have children that are afflicted with this syndrome. And being able to bring together these three diverse, different groups of people has been beautiful, in my opinion. You’ve got scientists learning from the farmers. You’ve got the farmers learning a little bit more about antibodies and their potential applications. Then of course you get the families coming and seeing and contributing from a personal standpoint how some of this research could impact them in the long run. I think that’s been most rewarding for me.”
(Source: Brian Wadzinski, PhD)
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