When Weaker Is Better

Strong molecular bonds between antibodies and biological gels, such as mucus, aren’t necessary to catch pathogens as was previously thought. In fact, rapid, weak interactions between antibodies and biogels are better for locking down foreign invaders in the body’s first line of defense.

It’s like looking for a parking spot in a crowded lot, Sam Lai, Ph.D., an associate professor in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy.  “If all the cars park for hours on average, then it is going to be very difficult for a new vehicle to find a spot. That’s strong binding,” he said. “But if each car is only parked for a minute or less, then you’ll have no trouble finding a spot.” 

This research should ultimately lead to greater protection from pathogens such as viruses and bacteria. Lai’s work has spun off a company, Mucommune, which is working to engineer antibodies that can be applied topically to prevent diseases at the infection site.

Read the complete Carolina Story from the Eshelman School of Pharmacy…

This work was supported by Lai’s Packard Fellowship and NSF Career Award, the National Institutes of Health, the Eshelman Institute of Innovation, graduate fellowships from the NSF and PhARMA Foundation, and the National Science Foundation.

The Eshelman Institute for Innovation is made possible by a $100 million gift from Fred Eshelman to accelerate the creation and development of ideas leading to discoveries and transformative changes in education, research and health care. To learn more about the EII’s impact, visit unceii.org/impact.

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