Scientists develop bioscavenger treatment against nerve agents

Researchers from Great Britain's University of Sheffield and the Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute in Moscow have developed an enzyme treatment to combat exposure to nerve agents such as tabun, sarin and VX.

The scientists were recently successful in using a modified human enzyme to act as a bioscavenger to absorb Organophosphorus agents, which are also commonly used as pesticides. The enzyme was found to protect mice against the OP agent VR, which was developed as a chemical weapon, according to

The group's study was recently published online in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This current publication describes a novel method to generate a bioscavenger for the Russian VR organophosphorus agent with the key property of being long-acting in the bloodstream," Professor Mike Blackburn from the University of Sheffield's Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology said, reports. "That has been achieved by a combination of chemical surface modification (polysialylation) and biotechnology of production (through the use of an in vitro CHO-based expression system employing genes encoding butyrylcholinesterase and a proline-rich peptide under special promoter control)."

The researchers treated a total of eight mice with the enzyme after they each was exposed to enough VR nerve agent to kill several mice. All of them survived.