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UK company develops nonbiological antibody replication

A belated story from The Register: "The [British] government has handed £1m in grants and awards to a nanotech company that has developed a new way of detecting a bioterror attack. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) both contributed to the funding package. The company concerned, Nanosight, is cagey about explaining its technology because its patents are all still under review. What it will say is that it has developed a way of replicating viral antibodies using non-biological means, specifically 'computer and microelectronics technology'." The submittor of this item commented: "The story centers around a bio-weapon detector, however, I feel the promise of non-biological production of viral/bacterial antibodies is much more interesting."

5 Responses to “UK company develops nonbiological antibody replication”

  1. RobertBradbury Says:

    Non-biological assembler???

    It must be quite an assembler as antibodies depending upon whether they are the light or heavy chains range from 25 to 60 kDa or a minimum of 130 to 260 amino acids (assuming the mass of the heaviest amino acid). If they can put polymers together of that length without making errors that would make purification a nightmare then my hat will be off to them.

  2. Chemisor Says:

    Re:Non-biological assembler???

    > If they can put polymers together of that length without making errors

    Why not? You can do DNA strands with thousands of BPs these days. You don't need to worry about purification: it's done on a solid support, where you just wash your reagents through the reaction vessel in sequence, while your product stays stuck to the walls. Drop in a nucleotide, attach it to the end of the chain, rinse the chamber, repeat. When you are done, release the chains and you have your product.

    A similar process works for proteins, but it's harder because they need to be folded correctly and tend to get hopelessly tangled while you are compiling them. If they have figured out how to keep the product nice and straight, good work! But my guess would be that they just picked an antibody that is not too fussy and folds itself during synthesis.

  3. RobertBradbury Says:

    Re:Non-biological assembler???

    Be it DNA or proteins you have a reliability problem. I know for sure that DNA polymerase has an error correction mechanism. I think the ribosome does as well. That means that when they insert the wrong base they backup, undo the last insertion and redo it. Without these the error rates are rather high.

    I do *not* believe that you can directly synthesize DNA strands of thousands of BP. The yield of "perfect" strands during the synthesis process gets too low and/or the separation and verification of the perfect strands becomes too difficult. What is normally done is that one would synthesize strands of a hundred or so bases, verify them, then assemble them into longer strands. That makes the process more complex and expensive.

    If you can cite someone who claims to be able to produce thousand BP DNA strands (at an affordable cost) I would like to be informed about them.

  4. Chemisor Says:

    Re:Non-biological assembler???

    > I do *not* believe that you can directly
    > synthesize DNA strands of thousands of BP.

    It's not generally done, of course, but if you are willing to spend a little more time on purification, I see no reason why it can't work. Because you would normally terminate strands that don't react with the next monomer, the perfect strands are simply the longest ones. Because the purification method is not sensitive to overall strand length, longer strands are no harder to purify, although they will, naturally, have lower yields. See this paper for more details on the process.

    > That makes the process more complex and expensive.

    Well, all DNA work is relatively expensive. If you have to ask "how much?", you probably can't afford to be in the business :) Prices do go down with time though.

    > If you can cite someone who claims to be able to produce thousand BP DNA

    Strangely enough, I couldn't find any. ~180bp seems to be the longest sequences people work with. If someone tried it, Google can't find them. In any case, concatenation of separately syntesized fragments is not that hard. If the product is needed in large quantity, the process can be automated. I doubt you'll find anyone doing this though, since there is no need to mass-produce a particular DNA sequence.

  5. jayakar Says:

    May be nano-modeling of antibody

    Antibody if it is non-protein (non-biological) it cannot be considered as antibody, and hence it is not replicable. Therefore, only nano-modeling by non-protein polymers is possible.

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