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Counting immune cells on a 'protein printboard'

In order to monitor how far an HIV infection has progressed, the number of immune cells – lymphocytes – must be counted. Researchers at the University of Twente have developed a method that neatly arranges the antibodies that bind to these immune cells on a ‘molecular printboard’. The researchers are publishing this key step in the road towards antibody-based sensors in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).

The researchers have succeeded in neatly lining up proteins on a surface. The process also allows patterns of various types of proteins to be created. The proteins do not bind to the surface directly but via so-called ‘linkers’; these are molecules that organize themselves and create structure. This technology has interesting medical applications, as it allows the creation of a surface with antibodies - proteins that allow antigens to be detected in blood. The presence of antigens provides information about diseases or disease progression. Good detection relies entirely on highly specific binding. The odds of ‘incorrect’ bonds being formed is minimized by this new method.

Cell count

Cells can also be bound to such a ‘protein printboard’ by using the characteristic proteins found on the outside of a cell. This cell adhesion is important in processes like counting immune cells – lymphocytes – to monitor the progression of an HIV infection. Highly specific binding is required to ensure reliable results. Thanks to the regular arrangement made possible by self-organization, researchers also achieve highly specific binding, minimizing the chances of errors. According to the researchers, this opens the door to low cost cell count systems.

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The research was performed by the Molecular Nanofabrication (MESA+) and Biophysical Engineering (MESA+ and BMTI) groups. They cooperated with the Agrotechnology & Food Innovations group of the Wageningen University and Research Center.

The article ‘Assembly of Bionanostructures onto ß-Cyclodextrin Molecular
Printboards for Antibody Recognition and Lymphocyte Cell
Counting’ by Manon Ludden, Xiao Li, Jan Greve, Aart van Amerongen,
Maryana Escalante, Vinod Subramaniam, David N. Reinhoudt en Jurriaan Huskens is already available online from the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS).

Wiebe van der Veen | alfa
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