Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Born on this Day Game Changing
17 March 2013

Game Changing

Spotting a face in the crowd is nothing compared to the recognition skills of the immune system’s antibodies. Their ability to home-in specifically to their target makes them invaluable tools for biomedical research. But how to produce them to order? Published in 1975, the work of Nobel Laureates César Milstein and Georges Köhler (pictured) – born on this day in 1946 – showed how. First mice are immunized with the target – such as a bacterial or human protein – and then the mouse’s antibody-producing B cells are immortalised by fusing them to cancer cells. Each resulting hybrid cell is a non-stop factory churning out monoclonal antibodies. They’ve revolutionised medical research, making it possible to pick out particular microorganisms or cell components among a crowded ocean of proteins. And they’ve enabled doctors to ‘image’ patients’ trouble spots and, when linked to a therapeutic agent, shoot tumours with a ‘magic bullet’.

Written by Lindsey Goff

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