Camelids, including llamas and alpacas, are endowed with a unique immune system that encompasses heavy chain only antibodies, in addition to regular 4-chain antibodies. VHHs or nanobodies as they are called, correspond with the antigen binding part of heavy chain antibodies. They are only 15 kDa in size, 10x smaller than a conventional antibody. Camelid nanobodies are a powerful research tool to study protein function in nearly every biological background: in vitro, in cells or in organisms.
Hidde Ploeghs’ more recent (June 2019) testimonal on nanobody technology in PNAS.
Because their cDNAs are available, Camelid nanobodies are amenable to tailored manipulation and modification, in addition to recombinant production and purification, for a variety of downstream applications. Hence, they are broadly applicable, irrespective of the research domain in which they are used: cancer, inflammation, neurological disorders, amyloid disease, technology development, …
Use of nanobodies in biomedical research may improve reproducibility of scientific findings as reported in literature (1,2). Conflicting data have been noticed with several antibodies, and batch to batch variability is an inherent risk. Nanobodies are encoded by DNA molecules, allowing more straightforward comparison and verification of scientific data.
Some recent studies where nanobodies feature as a core technology:
- Che T, Majumdar S, Zaidi SA, Ondachi P, McCorvy JD, et al. 2018. Cell 172: 55-67 e15
- Chamma I, Rossier O, Giannone G, Thoumine O, Sainlos M. 2017. Nat Protoc 12: 748-63
- Ariotti N, Rae J, Giles N, Martel N, Sierecki E, et al. 2018. PLoS Biol 16: e2005473
- Teng KW, Ishitsuka Y, Ren P, Youn Y, Deng X, et al. 2017. Elife 6
- Yen HY, Hoi KK, Liko I, Hedger G, Horrell MR, et al. 2018. Nature 559: 423-7