Edible antibodies may treat the gut inflammation affecting millions

A variety of health conditions, including some autoimmune diseases and cancer, have increasingly been treated with therapeutic antibodies. At this point in time, conventionally available antibody treatments involve injections directly into the bloodstream, an invasive method that could potentially include systemic side effects. That may change in the near future, though, thanks to a new technology for developing edible antibodies.

Until now, oral ingestion of therapeutic antibodies hasn't been possible due to the damage caused by digestion. The newly engineered antibody format enables the treatments to survive the digestion process, making it possible to treat gut-related conditions with local administration rather than turning to injections.

The manufacturing process used to produce these edible antibodies utilizes yeast cells or soybean seeds and food processing technology that already exists. According to an announcement detailing the technology, the manufacturing process is as 'straight forward' as manufacturing any other food item.

The treatment comes in the form of a powder containing antibodies that the patient — human or animal — consumes. The powder doesn't have to be put in capsules; in fact, it can be mixed directly with food. The treatment was tested on piglets, which are ordinarily susceptible to diarrhea caused by Escherichia coli. Antibiotics are the typical treatment for this issue, but the piglets were seemingly protected from the infection when fed edible antibodies.

The powder may not be limited to only veterinarian use, however. Pigs and humans have similar digestive systems, indicating that edible antibodies may be a future treatment for a number of human gut conditions, as well as a preventative method for battling infections and, potentially, reducing gut disease outbreaks in vulnerable populations.