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When it comes to treating diseases like cancer,
modern medicine has an impressive arsenal.
And one of its most versatile weapons
are Y-shaped proteins called monoclonal antibodies.
Our immune systems already produce
their own antibodies.
They come in billions of variations,
each matching a specific target,
such as a particular toxin, bacteria or virus.
When they bind to their target, they send a signal…
This bacterium is now marked for destruction.
These naturally-produced antibodies are pretty effective,
but in the 1970s,
scientists figured out how to mass produce them.
They can take any specifically-targeted antibody
and make huge numbers of identical clones,
which means you can produce monoclonal antibodies,
for almost any disease you can think of.
Which brings us on to cancer…
Mutated cells that start growing out of control
can be deadly.
But, the body's immune system
isn't defenceless.
Meet the CTL.
It's a type of white blood cell
that can detect infected or mutated cells,
and when it finds one, it secretes toxic molecules
that initiate a self-destruct sequence.
But the CTLs do sometimes need to be reined in.
If they get overenthusiastic
the immune system can start causing collateral damage
– attacking healthy cells.
Fortunately, the CTLs can be turned off
by activating a molecule called PD1.
The trouble with having an 'off-switch'
is that cancer cells can exploit it.
Many cancer cells protect themselves
with a counter receptor called PD-L1.
This is where monoclonal antibodies come in.
Scientists can use one of two types:
one that binds the PD-1 molecule,
or another that goes for PD-L1.
Thanks to the monoclonal antibodies,
all of the CTLs are fully activated
and can blast away the cancer.
This is just one way
that monoclonal antibodies can be used.
They've already proven effective
against a whole range of cancers
and yet more are still being developed.
With their ability to be targeted at specific diseases,
monoclonal antibodies
are turning out to be a game-changer,
and one of our most effective weapons
in the fight against cancer.
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免疫戰 : 單株抗體 (Immunology wars: Monoclonal antibodies)

750 分類 收藏
robert 發佈於 2018 年 10 月 24 日
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