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Monoclonal Antibodies

Monoclonal antibodies are identical copies of one antibody. 'Mono' means one and 'clone' means an identical copy.

Antibodies are proteins that are produced by a type of white blood cell called a lymphocyte. A pathogen has antigens on its surface, an antigen is also a protein. When a pathogen enters and infects the body, the lymphocytes recognise the antigens on its surface as foreign and attack them by producing antibodies.

Antibodies are specific to only one type of antigen, meaning that antibodies can only bind to certain antigens.

Monoclonal antibodies can be produced n the lab, to do this scientists:

  • First, inject an antigen into a mouse.

  • The mouse, like out body, will naturally produce antibodies that are specific to the antigen.

  • Spleen cells, which produce the lymphocytes, are then removed in a small operation.

  • The spleen cells are then fused with human cancerous white blood cells called a myeloma cell to form a hybridoma cell, the hybridoma cell will then divide.

  • These hybridoma cells can then divide and produce millions of antibodies that are specific to the original antigen.

Using monoclonal antibodies can have many benefits, but there are limits and problems with this also:

Monoclonal antibodies have many purposes since they are able to identify and bind to almost any substance. Some purposes are:

  • Pregnancy testing 

  • Testing for diseases such as herpes, chlamydia and HIV

  • Treat conditions like cancer

  • They can be produced very fast

There are some limitations to monoclonal antibodies also, such as they can be very expensive to produce and also they can have some unwanted side effects that scientists and not originally knew about, this means they can not be used as widely as originally believed.

The is also an ethical issue involved in the making of monoclonal antibodies, which is the use of a mouse in the production. The mouse has to be injected and undergo a small operation which some people disagree with this use of animals to produce monoclonal antibodies.