Nanobodies can target and help image cellular parts other bigger antibodies can't reach
Fighting off infections is what antibodies are made for. But that's in the body. In the lab, because they bind to specific proteins, fluorescently-tagged antibodies can be used to reveal and image where those proteins reside in cells. However, the size of typical antibodies prevents them from getting to proteins in hard-to-reach places. However, the camel family and cartilaginous fish make far smaller versions dubbed nanobodies. They can penetrate deeper and enable higher resolution imaging. This is especially important for the study of nerve cells, which are highly complex in both their structure and the variety of proteins they contain. Researchers designed nanobodies against proteins crucial for brain function, and found in restricted regions within nerve cells. Fluorescence imaging of nanobody-treated mouse nerve cells (pictured) illustrates how nanobodies can precisely reveal proteins distributed at cell contacts called synapses. These nanobodies form a powerful toolkit to help uncover the inner workings of nerve cells.
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