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VUB Team Develops Nanobody-Based Technology Against Liver Inflammation


Mathieu Vinken, a professor in the In Vitro Toxicology and Dermato-cosmetology (IVTD) lab at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and doctoral student Raf Van Campenhout have developed a technique based on nanobody technology to prevent liver inflammation. Nanobodies, or single-domain antibodies, are fragments of antibodies that can selectively bind to a specific antigen. Because they are simple to produce and react in very specific ways, they are often used in various biotechnological, therapeutic and diagnostic applications.  

"During a previous research project financed by an ERC Starting Grant, my team discovered that a specific type of molecule, pannexins, played an important role in certain inflammatory diseases," says Vinken. "Pannexins are tube-like molecules found in the cell membrane. In a healthy state, these tubes are closed, but when diseased, they open, allowing substances through, leading to inflammation and eventually cell death. By using nanobodies, the opening of these pannexin tubes is suppressed, interrupting the inflammatory reaction."

Vinken received additional funding, an ERC Proof of Concept and an FWO research grant, to develop this nanobody technology. For this, he is working with Professor Nick Devoogdt and postdoc Timo De Groof from the Molecular Imaging and Therapy research group at VUB. Devoogdt and De Groof specialize in creating and visualizing nanobodies.

Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Journal reference:
Van Campenhout, R. (2023). Nanobody-based pannexin1 channel inhibitors reduce inflammation in acute liver injury. Journal of Nanobiotechnology.

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