Human Antibody Research
In simplest terms, an antibody
is a substance created by the immune system in order to fight off
invasion from alien material or toxin, such as a virus or bacterium.
Such invaders, called antigens, attract specific antibodies, which
in turn bind to them, creating a beacon of sorts to the rest of the
immune system, so that the invader can be destroyed. Therefore,
antibodies are essential in our fight against infection and disease.
Antibody research began in the 1890ís and continues today. In the
hundred and twenty years since two early researchers suggested
something in the blood serum worked against foreign invaders,
research has told us what antibodies are made of, where they are
created and how they are attracted to their specific antigen, as
well as given us ways in which we can use that knowledge to save
From previous research, we know that the detection of specific
antibodies can indicate whether someone has a specific illness.
Antibody tests have been developed to indicate cirrhosis of the
liver, Lyme Disease and a host of autoimmune diseases. Antibodies
are also used in some pregnancy tests.
Initial antibody response is slow, only producing a few antibodies,
but should the same antigen reappear in the body, the response is
rapid and massive. This rapid response is how we become immune to
disease; it is also one way we can be immunized against disease.
Science has learned that injecting antigens into a living host, such
as a rat, rabbit, goat, chicken, or human, will cause the host to
create antibodies for that antigen, provided the hostís immune
system is working properly.
When the hostís blood is drawn, the antibodies are present;
scientists can use that blood to create antiserum to cure the
illness in others. Additionally, injecting someone with a weak or
dead version of a virus may trigger the slow response production of
antibodies that will protect the host against a full-blown attack of
that virus. Additional research has lead to the ability to
genetically alter mouse antibodies for use in humans. Use of
antibodies to prevent, and cure disease by artificial means is
called antibody therapy.
As well as creating antiserum, research has taught scientists how to
create large amounts of antibodies in a relatively short time. The
cloning of a single b cell, from which antibodies are made, and
combining it with a rapidly growing cell, such as a cancer cell,
produces what is called a monoclonal antibody.
In recent years, research into antibody therapy in general and
monoclonal antibody therapy in particular has lead to some
incredible discoveries. Antibody therapies are used in several types
of cancer treatments, as well as in treatment for rheumatoid
arthritis. Current antibody research indicates it may soon have
treatments for avian and other deadly flu types, along with the
potential cures for hepatitis C and HIV.
In 2009, other research indicated antibody therapy may prevent the
spread of the deadly Nipah and Hendra viruses, and in July of 2010,
researchers identified two new antibodies, which keep many of the
strains of HIV from infecting people.
Human antibody research advances in the last one hundred and twenty
years have made it possible for doctors to save countless lives, and
prevent the spread of disease in ways those early researchers could
have only dreamed. One can only wonder what researcherís dream may
be realized tomorrow.