Affimers provide new insight into cells while satisfying commitment to animals

By Brittany Farb Gruber

- Last updated on GMT

Image shows the purple stained actin within cells and the green colored affimer to which it is bound. The addition of the affimer to the actin inside the cell makes it easier for scientists to study cell behavior, according to a recent report. (Image credit: University of Leeds)
Image shows the purple stained actin within cells and the green colored affimer to which it is bound. The addition of the affimer to the actin inside the cell makes it easier for scientists to study cell behavior, according to a recent report. (Image credit: University of Leeds)
Scientists at the University of Leeds may have found a new way to reduce the number of animals used in research while also gaining improved insight into treating cancer and other diseases.

Researchers are using an affimer, a lab-made protein that binds to F-actin protein which is part of the network within cells that gives them their shape and helps them move and divide. By seeing the cells in action, scientists can develop chemical compounds to target as potential new drug candidates, according to a report published earlier this month​.

Affimers were originally developed at the University of Leeds in 2014 as a man-made alternative to animal-derived antibodies.

“The university is committed to reducing the number of animals used in research by using the affimers, which are not produced using animal based products to carry out research, we are supporting our overarching goal,”​ said Peter Le Riche from the University of Leeds’ press office.

The university is a founding signatory to the Understanding Animal Research Concordat on Openness in Animal Research​.

Small but mighty

Due to their extremely small size, the characterization of the affimers that recognize F-actin was conducted at the University of Leeds’ super-resolution microscopes in its bioimaging facility. The facility is available to academics outside the university and to business and industry through its new innovation center, Nexus.

The small size of affimers also has made it possible to bind directly into the dense actin network in living cells, which enables scientist to better observe the movement within the cell.

“The new use for the affimers we’ve isolated has created a version which recognises and binds to the F-actin protein, which forms part of a dense wiring system of filaments within cells, to give them their structure and assists with their movement and division,”​ said Ruth Hughes, a research fellow at the University of Leeds, in a statement.

“The affimers carry a biological label which lights up under a microscope to help us see the F-actin with greater accuracy than previously possible with antibodies,” she added.

Source: Scientific Reports
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-24953-4​ 
“Affimer proteins for F-actin: novel affinity reagents that label F-actin in live and fixed cells”
Author: Anna Lopata et al.

Related topics: Preclinical Research

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