Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Chemical Weapons
14 December 2013

Chemical Weapons

A normal function of our immune cells is to produce antibodies that target invading microbes. Researchers are turning that on its head by using man-made antibodies to fight rogue immune cells. Leukaemia [immune cell cancer] accounts for a quarter of all childhood malignancies. Fortunately chemotherapy is effective for over eighty percent of patients but the drugs used are so toxic they can damage organs leading to lifelong health problems. The image shows a man-made antibody (stained purple) that targets a protein present on the surface of leukaemic cells but not normal cells. As the targeted protein moves inside the cell (in blue) it takes the attached antibody with it. The next step for researchers is to chemically link a toxin to the antibody. This would allow the destruction of only the cancerous cells leaving the rest of the body untouched, consequently reducing toxicity and improving patient’s lives.

Written by Julie Webb

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