Uses of Monoclonal Antibodies

Monoclonal antibodies are identical antibodies that are produced from the same immune cell. They can bind only to one protein antigen, so they can be used to target chemicals and cells in the body.

Some common uses of monoclonal antibodies are:

  • Pregnancy tests
  • Tests in laboratories to measure the levels of hormones or other chemicals in blood
  • To treat diseases (e.g. cancer)

Different Uses of Monoclonal Antibodies

Pregnancy tests

Human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) is present in the urine of pregnant women.

Monoclonal antibodies in pregnancy test kits bind with a hormone called hCG, which is only found in the urine of pregnant women. If the hormone is present, there will be a change in colour, which shows a positive result.

Positive result = Woman is pregnant

Research and disease detection

Doctors use monoclonal antibodies to measure and monitor hormone levels or chemicals in the blood. The monoclonal antibodies are modified so that they will bind to the molecule.

Monoclonal antibodies are also used to identify and diagnose infections by testing for the presence of pathogens.

  • For example, they are used for screening donated blood for HIV infections

They can also be bound to a fluorescent dye, which is useful for identifying and locating specific molecules. So if the molecules are in the sample, the antibodies bind to it and a colour change can be observed.

Cancer treatment

Cancerous cells have antigens on their surface that are not present on healthy body cells. The monoclonal antibodies are designed to bind to antigens on the surface of cancerous cells.

When the monoclonal antibodies are injected into the patient, they will bind with the cancer cells and clump together. This can help with identifying cancerous tumours and treatment as well. The antibodies can have cancer drugs attached to them, or encourage the immune system to attack cancerous cells.

Disadvantages of Using Monoclonal Antibodies

  • It is difficult to attach monoclonal antibodies to drugs
  • They are produced from mice lymphocytes, which often cause complications when used in humans
  • It is currently very expensive to develop monoclonal antibodies
  • Animal-rights activists typically disagree with the use of monoclonal antibodies because it involves the extraction of spleen cells from mice

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