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"Mental Floss" -- The Discovery Files

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Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a new method to design antibodies aimed at combating disease. The process was used to make antibodies that neutralize the harmful protein particles that lead to Alzheimer's disease.

Credit: NSF/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Body-mind Connection.

(Sound effect: theme music) I'm Bob Karson with the discovery files--new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

Some of the best ways of fighting disease come from our bodies themselves. So it's no surprise that a new method to combat conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's could come from the body's own defense arsenal--with a little help from scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. They've developed a way to design antibodies that specifically target harmful proteins like the ones that lead to Alzheimer's.

This is an antibody. Y-shaped, with a bunch of peptide loops hanging off of it. When the antibody targets an invader its loops bind to it and neutralize the unwelcome guest. But the antibodies have to have just the right arrangement of loops in order to bind to a specific invader. With billions of combinations possible, scientists have been unable to design antibodies to combat specific ailments. The new method may help change that by using the same molecular interactions that cause the Alzheimer's proteins to stick together.

In tests, the group found that their newly-created antibodies latched on to only the harmful clumped proteins associated with the disease, while leaving the other harmless proteins untouched. The researchers see potential for the technique being used to target protein particles involved in Parkinson's disease as well.

Just goes to show what the body can do once we put our minds to it.

"The discovery files" covers projects funded by the government's national science foundation. Federally sponsored research--brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast. (/p)

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