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
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.