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  • When it comes to treating diseases like cancer,

  • modern medicine has an impressive arsenal.

  • And one of its most versatile weapons

  • are Y-shaped proteins called monoclonal antibodies.

  • Our immune systems already produce

  • their own antibodies.

  • They come in billions of variations,

  • each matching a specific target,

  • such as a particular toxin, bacteria or virus.

  • When they bind to their target, they send a signal

  • This bacterium is now marked for destruction.

  • These naturally-produced antibodies are pretty effective,

  • but in the 1970s,

  • scientists figured out how to mass produce them.

  • They can take any specifically-targeted antibody

  • and make huge numbers of identical clones,

  • which means you can produce monoclonal antibodies,

  • for almost any disease you can think of.

  • Which brings us on to cancer

  • Mutated cells that start growing out of control

  • can be deadly.

  • But, the body's immune system

  • isn't defenceless.

  • Meet the CTL.

  • It's a type of white blood cell

  • that can detect infected or mutated cells,

  • and when it finds one, it secretes toxic molecules

  • that initiate a self-destruct sequence.

  • But the CTLs do sometimes need to be reined in.

  • If they get overenthusiastic

  • the immune system can start causing collateral damage

  • attacking healthy cells.

  • Fortunately, the CTLs can be turned off

  • by activating a molecule called PD1.

  • The trouble with having an 'off-switch'

  • is that cancer cells can exploit it.

  • Many cancer cells protect themselves

  • with a counter receptor called PD-L1.

  • This is where monoclonal antibodies come in.

  • Scientists can use one of two types:

  • one that binds the PD-1 molecule,

  • or another that goes for PD-L1.

  • Thanks to the monoclonal antibodies,

  • all of the CTLs are fully activated

  • and can blast away the cancer.

  • This is just one way

  • that monoclonal antibodies can be used.

  • They've already proven effective

  • against a whole range of cancers

  • and yet more are still being developed.

  • With their ability to be targeted at specific diseases,

  • monoclonal antibodies

  • are turning out to be a game-changer,

  • and one of our most effective weapons

  • in the fight against cancer.

When it comes to treating diseases like cancer,

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Immunology wars: Monoclonal antibodies

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    robert posted on 2018/10/24
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