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Llamas May Help Humans Fight Dandruff

Llama Antibody May Lead to Shampoos That Are More Effective Against Dandruff

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Jan. 17, 2005 - An antibody found in llamas may help humans fight dandruff flakes, a new study suggests.

Researchers say adding llama antibodies to shampoo may offer a new way to reduce dandruff by targeting a fungus known as M. furfur implicated in dandruff and other skin diseases. Antibodies are disease-fighting compounds formed by the immune system in response to infection.

In their study, researchers isolated single-domain antibody fragments called VHHs that were stable in shampoo and may inhibit M. furfur. Previous studies have shown that increased turnover of the fungus M. furfur is associated with dandruff formation, and reductions in their number can decrease dandruff severity.

The results of the study appear in the January issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Current dandruff shampoos contain antifungal agents that broadly target this fungus, but in this approach researchers used an antibody that acts on a specific protein on the surface of the fungus that slows the growth of the fungus.

In the study, researchers vaccinated a llama with M. furfur three times over five weeks. They then isolated antibodies in the blood formed by the animal's immune system to fight the fungus.

Next, they tested the antibodies to determine which would remain effective in fighting the fungus when combined with a shampoo solution. They found many VHHs were stable when mixed the harsh chemicals found in shampoo and continued to be active against M. furfur.

Researchers say the next step will be to test whether shampoos containing VHHs can inhibit the growth of M. furfur on the human scalp and therefore reduce dandruff.

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SOURCE: Dolk, E. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, January 2005; vol 71: pp 442-450.
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