Warrick.Glynn at csiro.au Warrick.Glynn at csiro.au
Fri Aug 20 08:57:34 EST 2004

CSIRO Media Release

20 Aug 2004                                                                                            

A recent discovery shows that antibodies produced by shark immune systems could be used to detect a range of human pathogens some of which have the potential to be used as biological warfare agents.
Melbourne Scientists, Drs Victor Streltsov and Stewart Nuttall in the CRC for Diagnostics at CSIRO Health Sciences and Nutrition, have determined the three-dimensional molecular structure of a new class of antibodies from sharks using X-ray crystallography.
Dr Nuttall says the shark antibodies have now been designed and produced entirely in the lab to create highly stable new clinical reagents. 
"This makes them ideal for use in diagnostics, especially as they have also evolved to a small size," he says.
"As a result, we now have an opportunity to produce antibodies which can be used to detect infectious disease agents like SARS and anthrax, and for environmental science and biotechnology applications."
Dr Streltsov says defining the structures was challenging, particularly as they are so different from other immune-system molecules. 
"There were also many subtle changes acquired over millions of years of evolution, which proved that these shark antibodies have a unique evolutionary history," he says. 
"Over the last 500 million years, the shark immune system appears to have co-opted a particular type of cell-surface protein to its own use, creating a novel additional class of antibodies completely unlike those seen in humans."
The discovery and a description of new antibodies obtained from wobbegong sharks (Orectolobus maculatus), was published this week in the prestigious journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.  
The publication of the  findings should prove to be an important milestone in increasing our understanding of the evolution of the immune system.
CRC Scientific Director and co-author of the article, Dr Peter Hudson, says defining the antibodies' structures will enable the research team to design a revolutionary new class of molecules for clinical diagnosis and therapy, with important implications for biowarfare defence.
Media please note:
A video news release featuring laboratory footage and interviews with Drs Nuttall, Streltsov and Hudson is available upon request.  Media are invited to contact Warrick Glynn to arrange for interviews and/or filming opportunities at CSIRO's laboratories at Parkville, Melbourne. A background information sheet is also available upon request.
More information:
Scientific Assistance:
Dr Stewart Nuttall   03 9662 7324
CSIRO Health Sciences & Nutrition and CRC for Diagnostics 
Dr Victor Streltsov  03 9662 7311
CSIRO Health Sciences & Nutrition and CRC for Diagnostics              
Media Assistance:
Warrick Glynn, CSIRO Health Sciences & Nutrition   03 9662 7344  0408 117 846

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