During the coronavirus pandemic, the term “monoclonal antibodies” was frequently in the news. Despite this, many people still do not understand the importance of these proteins – or even what they are.
Here’s what you need to know about how monoclonal antibodies are made and how they can positively impact health and healing:
What are Monoclonal Antibodies?
The human body naturally produces proteins called antibodies that selectively identify antigens. An antigen is any substance that induces an immune response, including external sources such as pathogens, chemicals, and allergens, and internal sources such as cancer cells and even healthy cells in the case of autoimmune disease.
Sometimes, the body does not produce the correct antibodies or does not produce enough of them to be effective. In other circumstances, exposure to dangerous pathogens is too risky to allow the body to take the time to produce these antibodies naturally. In these cases, synthesized antibodies produced in a laboratory can be used to combat these harmful substances.
One of the most important types of these synthesized antibodies is the monoclonal antibody, which can be created to address a specific epitope of an antigen, increasing binding site specificity, and reducing cross-reactivity with other proteins.
How are Monoclonal Antibodies Made?
The first step in creating monoclonal antibodies is creating the immune response that would be seen in a healthy human body. Once this is done, lymphocytes are harvested, typically from the spleen or the lymph nodes.
Next, lymphocytes will be reproduced or cloned. These cloned cells will be introduced to other cells which can fortify them and make it easier for them to be reintroduced into the human body as a vaccine or other course of treatment. This may be done through chemical means with polyethylene glycol or using electric pulses which can temporarily weaken cell walls and allow for better fusion of two adjacent cells.
After all of this, the best cells are isolated and selected for reproduction. These cells are then used to create the vaccines, infusions, and other medical interventions that make monoclonal antibodies so effective and important.
How are Monoclonal Antibodies Used?
While the most familiar use for monoclonal antibodies in recent memory is in fighting the COVID-19 virus, there are actually many ways these antibodies are used in medicine.
Just a few of the applications of monoclonal antibodies include:
- Cancer treatment
- Transplant rejection treatment
- Treatment of skin conditions like psoriasis
- Addressing cardiovascular conditions, and more
Additional conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and multiple sclerosis can also be addressed using these antibodies. In these conditions, the body produces antibodies in response to cells that are not actually hazardous, which can cause serious health concerns. Treatment with monoclonal antibodies can help to rebalance the body’s immune response and lessen symptoms in patients with these chronic conditions.