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What Is a Mimotope?

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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 10 August 2014
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A mimotope is a biological substance that can take on the partial structural appearance of a harmful biological substance. Scientists may use this ability to help create vaccines against harmful substances. Specifically, mimotopes may be classified as large molecules, or macromolecules, that consist largely of amino acids. The term may also be generalized to encompass any substance that simulates the appearance of any type of binding area.

Invasive organisms like viruses and bacteria may enter the body and cause harm. These harmful particles, known as antigens, consist of different parts, including epitopes. The body produces substances called antibodies to combat these invaders. Typically, the antibody will attach to the antigen and either kill it or deactivate it, rendering it powerless.

The portion of the antigen that antibodies use for identification purposes is the epitope. Once the antibody has classified and targeted an antigen, the antibody’s paratope structure will then bond to the epitope of the antigen. Epitopes comprise the substances that mimotopes mimic, so an antibody may also connect with a mimotope.

Scientists have found both research and practical applications for mimotopes. The most obvious application involves using the mimotope to induce an antibody reaction within an individual. For example, one capability of many antibodies is to combat inflammation. Therefore, mimotopes could be utilized effectively as an anti-inflammatory agent to reduce the swelling and irritation common in inflammation-based conditions.

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Due to their structural properties, these molecules are also useful for studying the structures of actual antigens. By manipulating these safer substances, researchers can gain insight into the origin, evolution, and function of harmful diseases. Further, since the substances interact with antibodies in much the same manner as antigens, the mimotope can prove invaluable when testing vaccines and medicines.

Mimotopes usually only induce responses from antibodies in the immune system. As such, they are typically only effective with B-cell immune processes. In contrast, T-cell immune processes operate via alternative substances like macrophages. The promise of the mimotope in medical technology is particularly strong in allergy and cancer treatments.

While medication applications are arguably the most widespread area for mimotope use, the term can include more diverse studies as well. The large molecules known as peptides can simulate other types of binding areas besides viruses and antibodies. Several physiological binding processes, particularly those involving proteins, exist within the body, and mimotopes can be used for better understanding most of these processes. These substances have even found a place in the study and development of new energy-producing techniques.

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