- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The prestigious honor means that the lab, headed by Professor Xiaoling Lu, professor of immunology at Guangxi Medical University (GXMU), is now the central nanobody lab in the province and will receive "more support and expansion," she wrote in an email to Professor Hammock. She expressed her “heartfelt thanks" to Hammock for his "support and encouragement all the time” and added she looks forward to more and closer collaboration.
Lu directs the Nanobody Research Institute of GXMU and also serves as the deputy director of the International Joint Research Center of National Biological Targeting Diagnosis and Therapy.
"Dr. Siliang Duan of Professor Lu's lab was in our lab as a visiting scholar for 15 months (March 9, 2018 until June 1, 2019) to learn nanobody research," said Hammock, who holds a joint appointment with the Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Their lab is now applying this technology to gene therapy and other cancer biologies."
“This brings up that we all learn from each other internationally and across disciplines,” Hammock said. “The work that Siliang did here really bridged the science done in the mammalian group at Davis developing drugs for treating cancer and cancer pain with the nanobody group. We have extensive experience in nanobodies as diagnostics. While she was here, Siliang bridged the Davis nanobody work with studies on human and companion animal therapeutics at Davis and critically with the cancer therapeutic studies of the Xiaoling Lu group."
Three Papers Published. To date, the Hammock and Lu labs have published three papers together, the first in November 2019:
- “A Nanobody Against Cytotoxic T-Lymphocyte Associated Antigen-4 Increases the Anti-Tumor Effects of Specific CD8(+) T Cells,” published Nov. 1, 2019 in the Journal of Biomedical Technology, an international journal covering research and advanced technologies in the frontiers of biomedical sciences.
- "A Generation of Dual Functional Nanobody-Nanoluciferase Fusion and Its Potential in Bioluminescence Enzyme Immunoassay for Trace Glypican-3 in Serum,” published June 1, 2021 in the journal, Sensors and Actuators B: Chemical, an interdisciplinary journal dedicated to publishing research and development in the field of sensors and biosensors.
- "Nanobody-Based Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cells Designed by CRISPR/Cas9 Technology for Solid Tumor Immunotherapy,” published Feb. 25, 2021 in the journal, Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy.
Nanobodies, used as a research tool in structural, cell, and developmental biology, are the subject of many newly published papers. Lu co-authored a paper March 22, 2021 in the International Journal of Nanomedicine on “Nanobody: A Small Antibody with Big Implications for Tumor Therapeutic Strategy.”
“The development of targeted medicine has greatly expanded treatment options and spurred new research avenues in cancer therapeutics, with monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) emerging as a prevalent treatment in recent years,” write Emily Yedam Yang and Khalid Shah of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, in their article, “Nanobodies: Next Generation of Cancer Diagnostics and Therapeutics,” published in the journal, Frontiers in Oncology.
Human Enzyme Discovery. Hammock, internationally recognized for his work in alleviating inflammatory and neuropathic pain in humans and companion animals, co-discovered a human enzyme termed Soluble Epoxide Hydrolase (sEH), a key regulatory enzyme involved in the metabolism of fatty acids. It regulates a new class of natural chemical mediators, which in turn regulates inflammation, blood pressure and pain and in a recent PNAS article showed promise in cancer therapy.
Hammock and his lab have been involved in enzyme research for more than 50 years. Their work was recently cited as one of the key papers in agriculture for the last 50 years. Hammock and his lab introduced immunoassays to environmental chemistry, and they were an early adopter of monoclonal and now nanobody technology.
“The collaboration with Xiaoling and Siliang is wonderful in that the research spanned both the nanobody and therapeutic fields at UC Davis," Hammock said. "For example, we recently used alpaca nanobodies to the sEH to make exceptionally sensitive assays for the enzyme in tiny amounts of human blood. Nanobodies as therapeutics as well as diagnostics was a great contribution to us from Xiaoling and Siliang."
In 2019, Hammock received a $6 million “outstanding investigator” federal grant for his innovative and visionary environmental health research. His pioneering work on inflammation not only extends to alleviating chronic pain, but to targeting inflammation involved in cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and other health issues.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Xu, professor of agro-ecology at the China Agricultural University (CAU), is on a yearlong sabbatical in the Hammock lab. He received assistance in obtaining the grant from project manager Bruce Hammock and program manager Shirley Gee, now retired, both co-investigators.
“This is a highly competitive program and this grant is a huge honor for Ting and for Shirley Gee,” said Hammock, who holds joint appointments in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Center.
The $330,000 grant, funded by China, is a cooperative agreement between UC Davis and China. “The grant is quite timely, as UC Davis is working to increase scientific exchange with China,” Hammock said. “We have been collaborating with Ting's group for several years on nanobody-based immunoassays to improve human and environmental health.”
Two previous students from Professor Xu's laboratory have studied in Davis and the funds will allow additional senior Ph.D. students from Xu's laboratory to join the Hammock lab.
Xu described immunoassays as “a rapid, sensitive and cost effective method of analysis for pesticides.” Technically, engineering antibodies “such as a variable domain of heavy chain antibody (VHH) from camelids and a single-chain antibody variable fragment (scFv) from chickens have advantages over monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies in the respect of small size, thermal stability, solubility and easy generation,” Xu explained. “The objectives of this project focus on the production of specific VHHs and scFvs for several pesticides and the development of engineering antibodies based immunoassays for pesticide environmental exposure and food safety. The novel pesticide antibodies are expected to improve the assay sensitivity and stability.”
“Nanobodies are revolutionizing immunoassay development and possibly disease therapy,” explained Shirley Gee, UC Davis collaborator on the proposal. “It was thrilling over the last few months to have Ting and his student here at the same time as Gualberto Gonzalez from Uruguay and his students since we are three of the major labs developing this technology for analyzing environmental and food toxins.”
Among other benefits, the research can aid farm workers, who would be monitored for pesticides in their urine. The assay could distinguish between exposed and unexposed populations and provide useful information about relative exposure related to crop or use of personal protective equipment.
Xu's publications directly address the fact that the immunoassay method, especially ELISA, is an effective screen tool for the agrochemicals and pollutants in the environment. His main contributions to science are associated with design of novel haptens, production of tradition (monoclonal and polyclonal) and engineering antibodies, and development of competitive and non-competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) for small molecules.
Xu received his doctorate in agro-ecology in 2003 from CAU, and did postdoctoral research in immunoassays in 2007 at the University of Hawaii. He joined the CAU faculty in 2003 as a lecturer and advanced to associate professor in 2007, and professor in 2013. Twice honored by Chinese governments, Xu received third prize for the Agriculture Science and Technology Award by the China Ministry of Agriculture in 2009, and second prize for the Technological Invention Award by the China Ministry of Education in 2013.