Scientists Develop Antibodies That Could Stimulate the Body to Repair Itself

University of Toronto scientists have developed antibodies that could someday be used for the body to repair itself.
Donna Fuscaldo
Immune system enot-poloskun/iStock

Self-healing isn't only the domain of the computer industry, it's also being developed for the human body. 

Scientists at the University of Toronto in collaboration with the Toronto Recombinant Antibody Centre, developed antibodies that in the future could be used to stimulate tissue in the body to repair itself.


Work the result of ten years of collaborations 

The research, published in eLife, is the result of ten years of work between teams of scientists led by Sachdev Sidhu, a professor in the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, and Stephane Angers, Associate Dean of Research in the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy.

"We are developing new molecules that have never been seen before and whose potential for regenerative medicine is enormous," says Sidhu in a press release highlighting the work. "By capitalizing on the momentum of stem cells research and regenerative medicine that already exists in Toronto, we are ideally situated to commercialize these molecules." AntierA Therapeutics, a new startup in Toronto will take the antibodies and develop drug-like molecules to be applied to regenerative medicine. 

Scientists opted to mimic Wnt proteins rather than isolate them

The scientists were able to engineer the antibodies to mimic Wnt proteins that typically instruct stem cells to form tissue in the embryo and also activate stem cells for tissue repair in adults who suffered from an injury. Scientists have long tried to use Wnt to activate tissue regeneration but ran into problems because of the complicated chemistry makeup of the Wnt proteins. 

It doesn't help that Wnt proteins attach to lipids which makes isolating them in an active form hard to do. Because of all that, the team of researchers decided to create antibodies that act like Wnts by combining and activating two different classes of Wnt receptors: Frizzled and LRP5/6. The antibodies can be created to replicate any of the hundreds of possible Wnt receptor combinations.  

"These 3D organoids hold great potential for research and drug discovery but to grow them you need a source of Wnt proteins to activate stem cells," said Angers, whose team presented the findings earlier this month at an eminent Gordon conference in the U.S. "Now we have a defined protein, which we can easily obtain in large amounts and which can support the growth of organoids from various tissues."

The newly created startup AntierA has already raised funding to develop the antibodies and is focused on developing treatments for vision loss and bowel diseases. 

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