A type of antibody found only in the blood of sharks could help tackle breast cancer, scientists have said.
It is thought that the unique IgNAR antibodies could be used to prevent the growth of cancer cells and research into them could lead to the development of new drugs to fight one of the most common form of the disease.
Biologists from the University of Aberdeen have been awarded $345,660 by Scottish cancer research charity the Association for International Cancer Research (AICR) to carry out a three-year study.
Their work will focus on two molecules, HER2 and HER3, found on the surface of cancer cells which, when they pair-up, are responsible for signalling cancer cells to grow and divide.
Potentially, IgNAR antibodies could be used to stop these molecules from working and sending the signal.
“IgNAR antibodies are interesting because they bind to targets, such as viruses or parasites, in a very different way to the antibodies found in humans,” said Dr Helen Dooley who is from the university’s School of Biological Sciences and will lead the study.
“They can do this because their attachment region is very small and so can fit into spaces that human antibodies cannot.
“We believe we can exploit the novel binding of IgNAR and use it to stop HER2 and HER3 molecules from working, and prompting cancer cells to grow and divide.”