A recent study titled “Chemically Synthesized Molecules with the Targeting and Effector Functions of Antibodies” and published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society by Yale University researchers, showed that it is possible to craft synthetic molecules that display the same targeting and response functions as antibodies.
The new molecules have been designed as SyAMs (synthetic antibody mimics), and can bind to cancer cells and cancer-fighting cells at the same time, resulting in an extremely efficient and specific immune response, just like natural human antibodies.
“Unlike antibodies, however, our molecules are synthetic organic compounds that are approximately one-twentieth the size of antibodies,” study leader Dr. David A. Spiegel, a professor of chemistry at Yale, said in a news release. “They are unlikely to cause unwanted immune reactions due to their structure, are thermally stable, and have the potential to be administered orally, just like traditional, small-molecule drugs.”
The researchers looked at the particular effect of SyAM in the targeting of prostate cancer cells (SyAM-Ps). These molecules recognize and bind to the prostate-specific membrane antigen on the surface of prostate cancer cells, while linking themselves to the Fc gamma receptor I expressed in the membrane of an immune cells. This connection allows the immune system to engulf and destroy (phagocytosis) that particular cancer cell.
The authors mentioned that developing and synthesizing these molecules was not an easy process. “We now know that synthetic molecules of intermediate size possess perhaps the most important functional properties of antibodies — targeting and stimulation of immune cells,” Dr. Spiegel added in the news release.
“It’s also noteworthy that molecules of such a small size can bring together two objects as enormous as cells, and trigger a specific functional response, entirely as a result of specific receptor interactions,” Dr. Spiegel explained.
Future research will explore the potential of SyAMs in the treatment of other types of cancers along with several infectious and bacterial diseases.