Sugar molecules support the healing process

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Leitet an der FAU den Lehrstuhl für Genetik: Prof. Dr. Falk Nimmerjahn. (Bild: Georg Pöhlein)

FAU researchers make antibodies more effective

Together with research groups from Sweden and Croatia, a team of researchers at FAU led by biologist Prof. Dr. Falk Nimmerjahn has discovered how to create particularly effective antibodies using sugar. Their findings have been published in the journal Cell Reports. These findings can be used in antibody treatment for cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Sugar is not only a basic element of our nutrition, it also plays a major role in the proper functioning of proteins in the body. Various types of sugar are significant for the correct structure of protein molecules and the removal of molecules which are no longer functioning from the organism.

Antibodies, which are essential for modern cancer and autoimmune disease treatment, are a type of protein. Sugar molecules determine the structure of antibodies and influence their effectiveness in immune response. Antibodies are much more effective against certain types of tumours when specific sugar residues are removed from them, an approach already used in clinical practice today. Other sugar residues may block this important tumour-destroying function, thus standing in the way of successful treatment.

Producing antibodies artificially is a challenge, as sugar molecules take a variety of forms and some of them promote activity while others suppress it. The researchers led by Falk Nimmerjahn have now succeeded in creating a list of requirements that describes how the sugar residues in the antibody should be structured to preserve their essential immune-activating functions while inhibiting the immunosuppressive effects.

‘This could help us develop very clearly defined antibody drugs which would be more effective but, above all, would have a reduced number of adverse side effects,’ explains Prof. Nimmerjahn.

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Prof. Dr. Falk Nimmerjahn