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Advances in Research on Treating Cystic Fibrosis

In Belgium, an antibody has been discovered that stabilizes the protein responsible for cystic fibrosis, opening up new possibilities for therapeutic experiments

Nearly 30 years after the cause of cystic fibrosis was discovered, there is still no cure for this lethal genetic disorder. With support from the Air Liquide Foundation, researchers at the University of Brussels (ULB) are developing new therapeutic treatments.

Identifying Stabilizing Antibodies

We have known since 1989 that cystic fibrosis is caused by a genetic mutation that changes the protein responsible for regulating the transport of chloride through cell membranes. This malfunction leads to more viscous mucus that accumulates in the respiratory and digestive tracts. Researchers from ULB have been concentrating their efforts on the faulty protein that causes this disease. They have identified and described a series of antibodies, or nanobodies, that are capable of stabilizing the defective protein.

Using the Properties of Nanobodies for Therapeutic Purposes

The work conducted on the atomic structure of nanobodies and their interactions with the protein responsible for cystic fibrosis has opened up promising new possibilities for chemistry researchers at ULB. Their goal is to design molecules with properties identical to nanobodies but with a higher therapeutic potential in hopes of optimizing their development as medicines.  

The Foundation Renews Its Support

Having been involved since 2013 in the effort to identify and characterize nanobodies, the Air Liquide Foundation is supporting ULB researchers during this second phase focusing on biochemistry and cell biology. A grant of €50,000 is being provided for the purchase of an optimization robot, an extremely precise piece of equipment that will be used to prepare chemical solutions and reduce the risk of error to essentially zero.


  • Project Initiator: Université Libre de Bruxelles
  • Location: Brussels, Belgium
  • Support date: 2017
  • R&D Manager: Marc Lemaire, Air Liquide Santé International