Variable fragments of heavy chain antibodies (VHHs): a new magic bullet molecule of medicine?

Postepy Hig Med Dosw (Online). 2012 Jun 14;66:348-58. doi: 10.5604/17322693.1000334.


Serum of animals belonging to the Camelidae family (camels and llamas) contains fully active antibodies that are naturally devoid of light chains. Variable domains derived from heavy chain antibodies (hcAb) called VHHs or nanobodies™ can bind antigens as effectively as full-length antibodies and are easy to clone and express. Because of their potential, VHHs are being intensively studied as potential therapeutic, diagnostic and imaging tools. The paper reviews the molecular background of heavy chain antibodies and describes methods of obtaining recombinant fragments of heavy chain antibodies as well as their therapeutic, diagnostic and other applications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / metabolism
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy
  • Camelids, New World
  • Chromatography, Affinity / methods
  • Communicable Diseases / drug therapy
  • Fishes
  • Hematologic Diseases / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments / chemistry
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments / isolation & purification
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments / therapeutic use*
  • Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains / chemistry
  • Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains / isolation & purification
  • Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains / therapeutic use*
  • Single-Domain Antibodies / chemistry
  • Single-Domain Antibodies / isolation & purification
  • Single-Domain Antibodies / therapeutic use
  • Species Specificity


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Immunoglobulin Fragments
  • Immunoglobulin Heavy Chains
  • Single-Domain Antibodies