What is a monoclonal antibody?
B-cells are a type of lymphocyte or white blood cell, and form part of the immune system. B-cells produce antibodies in response to antigens, markers on the surface of substances that are foreign to the body, such as bacteria, viruses, pollen and other materials. Each B-cell produces just one antibody, and that antibody binds to one specific antigen. Once the antibody has bound to the antigen, it sets in motion an immune response to eliminate the antigen.
A B-cell producing a particular antibody can be isolated and grown in cell culture to produce large amounts of a highly specific, purified antibody - this is known as a monoclonal antibody.
In the laboratory B-cells can be stimulated to see markers on the body's own cells as antigens and produce antibodies agains them. For example, antibodies can be generated that bind to antigens on specific lymphocytes, resulting in an immunological response to these cells. This approach offers the potential for a highly selective targeting of lymnphocytes involved iin the immunological processes that occur in multiple sclerosis without compromising the remainder of the immune system.
While similar techniques have been used to produce each of the monoclonal antibodies described here, each one targets a different part of the immune system and works in a very different way.