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Human Antibodies Given Sharklike Armor to Fight Disease

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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A swimming shart

Shark antibodies are more durable than human antibodies. Credit: Fishwatch.gov

Sharks and humans last shared a common fishy ancestor about 500 million years ago. Ever since, the two lineages have been making life difficult for one another. There has been an unhappy history of killing and eating. Recently humans have been doing most of the harm. Yet sharks are now lending us a helping hand, aiding in the design of proteins that help us fight disease.

Those proteins are called therapeutic antibodies, which are emerging as potent tools for cancer diagnosis and treatment. The trouble has been that human antibodies are rather delicate: When drug companies try and make them, a lot break apart.

Shark antibodies, in contrast, are robust. Now chemists have figured out the sources of that strength–some extra features in the proteins that work like Super Glue to keep them together. Building upon our shared and ancient evolutionary heritage, scientists have engineered those shark features into human antibodies and made cells produce them. More intact antibodies come out of these cells, and those antibodies withstand more damage.

“We found that a lot more of these antibodies passed through the cell’s quality control checkpoints,“ says Linda Hendershot, a biologist at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Tennessee and one of the scientists behind the new research, published online May 15 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The shark-human connection first took shape at the Technical University of Munich, where chemists Matthias Feige (now at St. Jude), Johannes Buchner and several colleagues began exploring shark antibody durability. This strength was somewhat remarkable because while a shark swims in the sea, its antibodies are swimming in a sea of urea. Urea is a substance famous for breaking down proteins. Yet sharks need lots of it because the substance keeps shark cells from losing water and becoming dehydrated. So antibodies need to resist this necessary evil.

The way they resist breakdown turned out to be part of their structure. The antibodies, which are long chains, fold and twist. The researchers made molecular images of shark antibodies called immunoglobulin new antigen receptors, and learned the proteins have two regions that act like strong glue, holding different segments together.

One region, Hendershot says, is known as a “salt bridge,” and it has a positive electrical charge at one end and a negative at the other. The opposites attract, like magnets, keeping the antibody from unfolding. The other region, Feige says, is a large water-repellent group of amino acids called a core. As they move away from water outside the antibody and towards one another, the acids exert more force holding the antibody together.

The scientists also learned that, while the shark and human antibodies were made of different sequences of components, their overall shapes were very similar. Their chains both featured the same “V” or hinge. The similarities gave the researchers confidence to try adding the shark features to human antibodies.

Using genetic engineering, the scientists modified shark genes that make the bridge and the core and added them to genes that make human antibodies. First they got bacteria to produce the converted antibodies, and then coaxed mammalian cells to do the same. They found that when both features were included—one alone wasn’t good enough—the antibodies resisted urea as well as other sources of breakdown, like high heat.

What particularly encouraged Hendershot was that the overall yield of these antibodies increased. The antibodies are produced in cell organelles that perform quality checks on the finished product, holding back ones with defects. So more of them were passing the cell’s own tests, she says. That’s attractive from a manufacturing perspective, something that could be used by biotech and drug companies.

“Of course, what we don’t know yet is whether this technique increases antibody half-life in the bloodstream,” she says. “That’s the next crucial test to do.” Like a lot of innovative architecture, it might work well in a small-scale model, but building something in the real world can reveal unexpected design flaws.

Josh Fischman About the Author: Josh is a senior editor at Scientific American, covering biology, chemistry, and earth science. On Twitter, he is @jfischman, and you can email him story ideas at jfischman@sciam.com Follow on Twitter @jfischman.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. SJCrum 7:37 pm 05/18/2014

    To hit the nail on the head concerning the shark antibodies in this article, that type of antibody is extremely dangerous, and will not work even in the slightest.
    The main bad thing is that once the foreign type of atom structure enters a human body cell, and it then bonds to a DNA ladder rung open bond point, the cell then acts like it is part of a shark. No kidding.
    The point of this is that the DNA atom structure that exists in a human body cells is designed and made to provide the living energy of life in the cell that it TOTALLY for humans. And all foreign atom string types are totally destructive in the end.
    By the way, pig insulin that used to be given the diabetics caused extremely bad results in the end for people who had taken that, and because the result was creating new body cells that were for pigs. The end result was that the new feet cells were trying to build pig feet. Or, pig eyes, and this is exactly why diabetics had problems in later years with feet and eyes. But, there were also many other inside things that were hurt as well.
    By the way, antibodies worked the same exact way as vaccines did for polio and all other cell diseases that they were used for. And that is that a dead polio virus in the vaccine was then taken by the body’s defense system into the needed body cells, and it was then caused to bond to the open bond points in the atoms of the right rungs. The end pot is that once bonded, all live polio virus were prevented from bonding there. And therefore no polio anymore.
    so, the antibodies are the same exact thing. but, the reason their antibodies are breaking up is because they are not designed and created properly. With correctly made types like this, they work terrifically.
    By the way, synthetic insulin doesn’t match the body’s requirements either, and there is a far better way to do the necessary thing. Taking a daily does of a good type of phosphorous will accomplish success entirely.
    By the way, the symptoms of diabetes are caused by the body not having enough of the phosphorus atom in the eaten food. In normally healthy people, the pancreas creates phosphorus atoms, if there are not enough in food, by combining an atom of oxygen with one of nitrogen. And, this process takes a significant amount of energy to do it. So, taking a supplement works perfectly when it is needed.
    So, unfortunately, all that is accomplished by taking insulin is to get rid of the symptoms. And, making a correct type of insulin requires an at least reasonable match to a body’s genetic pattern. And that requires sub-microscopic energy balls to be added to, or subtracted from, the three major atoms, of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon,in the food we eat. Unfortunately, that sub-microscopic science isn’t available in present-day technology, but it certainly exists in real science.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Bill_Crofut 11:25 am 05/19/2014

    Re: “Shark antibodies, in contrast, are robust. Now chemists have figured out the sources of that strength–some extra features in the proteins that work like Super Glue to keep them together. Building upon our shared and ancient evolutionary heritage, scientists have engineered those shark features into human antibodies and made cells produce them.”

    The quote raises two questions for me: (1) How did the shark survive while the required antibodies were evolving? (2) Why is not the similarity between human and shark antibodies an example of economy of design rather than common ancestry?

    Link to this
  3. 3. SJCrum 4:43 pm 05/19/2014

    Bill_Crofut – The answer to your first question about how sharks survived during the evolving antibodies, the answer is that evolving is entirely impossible. So, they survived without anything like that occurring at all. Antibodies instead are made by animal bodies and for the purpose of using them by the body’s defense system to fight various cell diseases. And, exactly as the God who created all animals were made to do.
    As for your second question, about shark and human antibodies being similar, the real science is that the antibodies made in sharks isn’t even the slightest similarity to humans at all, and because human bodies are far more complicated and therefore require far greater defense types.
    As far as the last question also, sharks and humans factually are not related in their ancestry. The totally factual truth also, is that sharks have anti-souls in them that are total killers. As far as that though, it is somewhat hilarious that, with half of the people on earth also having the anti-soul type, sharks actually do have a very similar soul. There is a difference, of course, but there certainly is a sameness also. No kidding.
    On the good side, dolphins have a very positive soul that is very much like all of the positive souls in humans. The difference between a human soul and any animal is that, while positive humans have the three soul parts of empotional feelings, intelligent thinking, and a strong feeling for survival and having a positive life, the animals have the same exact soul, but with a little less of all of the three parts, but full amounts of the survival.
    As for another item, just the same as God made each human positive soul by Him increasing His soul by a human amount, and then separating each soul from his so they could have a life of their own, He also made each positive animal soul in the exact same way. In one sense, God made all souls with the full love of His heart. And, they are extremely precious to Him.
    As for shark anti-souls, they are just killers that totally try to destroy everything that God loves.
    So, sharks and humans are not even close to being similar, or linked in any way to positive soul humans. And, shark bodies are definitely not related at all.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Mendrys 12:35 am 05/20/2014

    SJCrum,

    It isn’t nice to troll the religiously pious in such a way. For a moment I was buying that you believe what you wrote until I came across “As for shark anti-souls, they are just killers that totally try to destroy everything that God loves.
    So, sharks and humans are not even close to being similar” then I knew you were just trolling.

    Link to this
  5. 5. DavidMarjanovic 6:53 am 05/20/2014

    The main bad thing is that once the foreign type of atom structure enters a human body cell, and it then bonds to a DNA ladder rung open bond point, the cell then acts like it is part of a shark. No kidding.

    *applause*

    This is better word salad than any pomo generator can make! And such irrelevant words, too, like “DNA” when the topic is antibodies! *more applause*

    How did the shark survive while the required antibodies were evolving?

    Clearly, the whole thing happened gradually: as urea content increased from generation to generation, mutations that caused antibodies to become slightly more robust made their carriers more resistent to infections, so their descendants have been overrepresented in following generations.

    Why is not the similarity between human and shark antibodies an example of economy of design rather than common ancestry?

    There’s a whole lot of things to say about this. First of all, what makes you think it really is economic? You can’t simply assume such things, you need to demonstrate them.

    Trusting one’s assumptions misleads again and again. Systematically doubting all assumptions, even the most obvious-seeming ones, has brought science to the point where GPS works and matter & antimatter can be made from light.

    Link to this
  6. 6. Bill_Crofut 9:27 am 05/20/2014

    SJCrum,

    Thank you for that insight.

    Link to this
  7. 7. Bill_Crofut 9:45 am 05/20/2014

    Dr. Marjanovic,

    Re: “…what makes you think it really is economic? You can’t simply assume such things, you need to demonstrate them.”

    The same criticism, then, must also apply to common ancestry which also needs to be demonstrated:

    “During the thirty years from 1870 to 1900, there was an immense concentration of effort on embryology, inspired by the ‘biogenetic law’….Taxonomists also followed the trend, constructing hypothetical ancestors for their groups and explaining the derivation preexisting forms from these imaginary entities….. My impression is, also, that though it was unproductive from the Darwinian standpoint, this was not usually admitted. The deficiencies of the data were patched up with hypotheses, and the reader is left with the feeling that if the data do not support the theory they really ought to. A long-enduring and regrettable effect of the success of the Origin was the addiction of biologists to unverifiable speculation. ‘Explanations’, of the origin of structures, instincts, and mental aptitudes of all kinds in terms of Darwinian principles, marked with the Darwinian plausibility but hopelessly unverifiable, poured out from every research centre.”

    [Prof. W. R. Thompson. 1956. Introduction. In: Charles Darwin. Origin of Species. Everyman Library No. 811. London: J. M. Dent and Sons. Reprinted with permission. Evolution Protest Movement. 1967. NEW CHALLENGING ‘INTRODUCTION' TO THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES. Selsey, Sussex: Selsey Press Ltd., pp. 16, 17]

    Re: “Clearly, the whole thing happened gradually: as urea content increased from generation to generation, mutations that caused antibodies to become slightly more robust made their carriers more resistent to infections, so their descendants have been overrepresented in following generations.”

    That also needs to be demonstrated.

    Link to this
  8. 8. SJCrum 4:12 pm 05/20/2014

    To Mendrys – For information, I am not trolling even in the slightest, and instead describing real science facts that totally do describe science that is significantly above much of what is available in this world.
    As for the anti-soul sharks, that is factual science. Proof of that is simply that the cold of space in the beginning when not even one soul lived yet, the non-living cold of space has a type of science existing in it that causes very small positives to pop temporarily into existence. That is caused because the cold of space is not totally neutral, and would exist normally for a nothing condition.
    What occurred in the very beginning for the God I AM was that His beginning was in this way, and He tried to fight His way out of the cold of space, and for five times He failed and was pulled back in. On the sixth time, He finally made it out, and in His thoughts even though words were not created yet, He proclaimed with excitement, “I am!”. And this is why the God I AM has used that name since that beginning. By the way, that was ten million years ago by earth time calculations.
    The point of this though is that when God made His way out, an anti-soul, that is actually called a death-type by angels and everyone but me, was dragged out of the cold of space also. This first death-type was Satan, and he has tried to kill God ever since the beginning, and has tried endlessly to destroy everything that God has ever made.
    So, the anti-souls like Satan are nothing more than total killers, and sharks factually do have the anti-souls in them also. The positive opposite souls of sharks are the dolphins.
    So, in truth positive matter and anti-matter do not exist at all, but the two types for souls certainly, and factually, do.
    So, no, I am not trolling at all, and am instead stating the real science facts that are dead-on right.
    In this post, you might be able to see that my comments about shark souls isn’t just spewing any kind of opinion junk at all.
    By the way, the natural killers of rabbits, is the anti-soul type that exists in rattlesnakes, for one of their enemies.
    In any case, this is real science, and I can actually prove these truth enormously far more than just what I have written here.

    Link to this
  9. 9. SJCrum 4:25 pm 05/20/2014

    To DavidMarjanovic – As for your first comment about DNA, and that supposedly not being related to the antibody article, the science you are not understanding is that the DNA ladder structure of atoms is not a chemical type at all, as thought to be with Nucleic Acid in it, but is instead in real science, a mechanical generator that has the cores of atoms in turned-on rungs that then create the living energy of life in the body cells.
    With this situation, the antibodies you are describing are also atoms strings that the body’s defense system takes inside the cells and then bonds them to open atom bond points in the rungs.
    The point of this is that once the atoms are bonded there, that makes it impossible for an invading virus to bond there, or another item to bond either.
    Also, real science concerning all cell diseases is that those diseases are always caused entirely by an invading killer trying to bond inside and that then causes the rungs which were attached in their centers previously, to break apart, and that then stops the cell from working properly.
    So, in the end, antibodies are TOTALLY related to the REAL DNA atom structure. So, yeah, it is an ultra-huge APPLAUSE.

    Link to this
  10. 10. SJCrum 4:43 pm 05/20/2014

    To DavidMarjanovic – As for your second comment about the evolving theory that is totally laughable, I hate to burst your itty bitty bubble there, but one ultra-huge fact among thousands, is that the ultra-important millions of endless years needed to evolve anything is totally blown out of the water by REAL SCIENCE fact.
    Real science proves by thousands of example facts that the earth didn’t have all of those needed years, ad for two reasons.
    First, there was an ultra-huge heat event that killed all of the dinosaurs in the year 2500 B.C. That fact just blew carbon dating completely out of the universe’s window. Carbon dating, for one, requires a constant decay of carbon-14. And evolution requires the millions of years to cause it to slither slowly into existence also.
    So, that blows the time period completely out of the water also.
    For item #2, earth hasn’t even existed for anywhere near to that length of time. All animals have only been on earth for a little over 7000 years, and earth itself for 14,288 factual years.
    So, without a planet under your farcically evolving slithery life form’s feet, the hilariously clueless evolving slop just ain’t gonna’ be slithering out of the totally-non-existent slime puddle either.
    By the way, I can prove all of these facts with thousands of totally true science proofs. And, evolution junk can’t be proven in the end by any real science at all.
    So, unfortunately, you don’t know any real science facts in this area at all. And, it is IMPOSSIBLE for you, or anyone else, to have any winning with evolving at all. GOD MADE EVERY SINGLE THING THAT EXISTS, and there are trillions of factual science proof of that.
    So, yeah, APPLAUSE! It just has to be aimed in the totally right direction, and you ain’t got that right at all.

    Link to this
  11. 11. SJCrum 4:59 pm 05/20/2014

    To DavidMarjanovic – Another real life science fact is that the sun we have is a star. Yeah, wow to me for being able to figure that out, huh? The point though is that all stars have a burning life time of less than 20,000 years.
    So, with the evolving patouie needing earth to have been here for a little over a tidgeon beyond that maximum time, it looks like I just SANK YOUR BATTLESHIP.
    For proof of the itty bitty star fact, stars, in order to burn, need two items for burnability. A fuel like methane gas, which is factually dead-on right for stars, and which has been totally proven. And, oxygen. My gosh, who woulda’ guessed since everything on earth that burns just doesn’t burn at all with out the oxygen present.
    Of course, how in the world could I have ever said there was oxygen on the sun? The science is factually that the sun’s surface is calcium oxide, which releases the inside oxygen atoms only when the oxide is melted and the oxygen atoms are freed.
    The point of this is that the sun for earth is steadily using up its methane gas and also all of the oxygen embedded in the calcium-type rock surface.
    As for methane gas, there is an enormous amount there, but none of it can burn at all until another amount of oxygen is released.
    So, why did God make stars and the sun like this? Because it provides a slow, totally-controlled burn, instead of all of the methane on the sun exploding in one huge explosion that destroys it all. As for the methane also, that can be proven that it exist there also.
    So, the star facts here are not baloney opinions at all, but dead-on fact instead.

    Link to this
  12. 12. SJCrum 5:09 pm 05/20/2014

    To DavidMarjanovic – You know, I don’t mean to beat your battleship, even at the bottom of the ocean, into billions of totally smished pieces, but that last thing about matter and antimatter being able to be made from light is something that is right up there on the top shelf of total patouie.
    I am totally sorry, but I can’t help but … whatever.
    Anyway, a REAL SCIENCE FACT is that, … TADA!!!! …, all matter is made entirely of nothing else but total energy. And, there ain’t a single type of particle of any type in it at all. JUST ENERGY BALLS, that are sub-microscopic at the very deepest insides of all protons and electrons in the entire universe.
    The point of this is that God factually did not make ANY antimatter energy balls at all, and there is no such thing as antimatter. It is as totally non-existent as a gopher’s pet Corvette orbiting Pluto.

    Link to this
  13. 13. Mendrys 6:14 pm 05/20/2014

    SJCrum,

    Yep, you’ve confirmed it alright. You are a troll attempting to make people of faith look bad.

    Link to this
  14. 14. llirbo 11:36 pm 05/21/2014

    @SJCrum:

    This is the most amazing mound of completely inaccurate drivel I have seen since middle school when I had a classmate who would maintain he was right and the book wrong. I don’t know, or care, if you are a troll, because in the end it sounds like it came from a Marvel Comics mad scientist, so it is entertaining, quite! LOL: keep up the good work.

    Link to this
  15. 15. Caratacus 8:09 am 05/26/2014

    And I thought that was a magazine devoted to SCIENCE! How naïve of me. I think that Mr. Crum needs to get his head out from wherever he has buried it and read some real science. He might also try and avoid stating things to be ‘facts’ when they are nothing of the kind. Science operates on the basis of garnering information from experiments and then formulating a theory (i.e. a statement of current understanding). Based on this theory, an hypothesis is constructed and further experiments designed to test this prediction. The process is cyclic and is not – most emphatically not – set in concrete. A theory that is at odds with observed (and repeatable) facts has to fall and be subsequently modified to take account of the new information.

    Rubbish of the kind spouted by the Crums of this world isn’t helpful and should not be allowed to air within the pages of a journal such as this one. There may be places where it can rest but off-hand I can’t think of one. And yes, Mr. Crum, I do believe in a ‘Supreme Being’ and I am much more overawed by the universe that was created that I am by your brand of ‘fundamentalist’ tosh – it doesn’t give me even a ‘crumb’ of comfort.

    Link to this
  16. 16. hkraznodar 6:17 pm 05/29/2014

    This is a blog and not an article. As such it is up to the blog poster to police the comments. Apparently Josh doesn’t read comments on his blog posts or thinks SJCrum has the right spread delusion far and wide.

    Link to this

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