Magazine article Science News

Antibody Mimics Rival the Real Thing

Magazine article Science News

Antibody Mimics Rival the Real Thing

Article excerpt

Custom-tailored by the immune system to identify and nab specific chemical invaders, antibodies are masters of molecular recognition. Scientists often use them to target a substance within a mixture and measure the amount present, Now. a group of European researchers report they can make artificial antibodies that match the real thing when it comes to detecting minute quantities of two drugs in blood serum.

The researchers built their synthetic antibodies out of polymers, using a technique called molecular imprinting to construct a cast around a target molecule. Because these mimics are robust. reusable. and inexpensive to produce. They may one day replace antibodies harvested from laboratory animals for use in diagnostic tests. "Molecufar imprints may be made against a great number of organic molecules, for example, drugs, hormones, and toxins;' Klaus Mosbach of the University of Lund in Sweden and his colleagues write in the Feb. 18 NATURE. "This technique may have many applications."

The team made antibody mimics against two chemically unrelated drugs, the asthma medication theophylline and a tranquilizer called diazepam. They used a "cocktail" approach, Mosbach says, adding simple organic chemicals called monomers that interact with the "print" molecule in a variety of ways. For instance, methacrylic acid linked up in repeating units to form a polymer cage around the drug molecule, while a chemical cross-linker called ethylene glycol dimethacrylate strengthened the cage. After removing the drug molecule, the researchers had a rigid, insoluble polymer imprinted with the exact shape of the drug, like a handprint set in concrete. …

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