Once monoclonal antibodies for a given substance have been produced, they can be used to detect the presence and quantity of this substance, for instance in a Western blot test (to detect a protein on a membrane) or an immunofluorescence test (to detect a substance in a cell). They are also very useful in immunohistochemistry which detect antigen in fixed tissue sections. Monoclonal antibodies can also be used to purify a substance with techniques called immunoprecipitation and affinity chromatography.
Monoclonal antibodies for cancer treatment
One possible treatment for cancer involves monoclonal antibodies that bind only to cancer cell-specific antigens and induce an immunological response against the target cancer cell. Such mAb could also be modified for delivery of a toxin, radioisotope, cytokine or other active conjugate; it is also possible to design bispecific antibodies that can bind with their Fab regions both to target antigen and to a conjugate or effector cell. In fact, every intact antibody can bind to cell receptors or other proteins with its Fc region. The illustration below shows all these possibilities:
Chimeric and humanized antibodies
One problem in medical applications is that the standard procedure of producing monoclonal antibodies yields mouse antibodies. Although murine antibodies are very similar to human ones there are differences. The human immune system hence recognizes mouse antibodies as foreign, rapidly removing them from circulation and causing systemic inflammatory effects
A solution to this problem would be to generate human antibodies directly from humans. However, this is not easy primarily because it is clearly not ethical to challenge humans with antigen in order to produce antibody. Furthermore, it is not easy to generate human antibodies against human tissues
Various approaches using recombinant DNA technology to overcome this problem have been tried since the late 1980s. In one approach, one takes the DNA that encodes the binding portion of monoclonal mouse antibodies and merges it with human antibody producing DNA. One then uses mammalian cell cultures to express this DNA and produce these half-mouse and half-human antibodies. (Bacteria cannot be used for this purpose, since they cannot produce this kind of glycoprotein.) Depending on how big a part of the mouse antibody is used, one talks about chimeric antibodies or humanized antibodies. Another approach involves mice genetically engineered to produce more human-like antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies have been generated and approved to treat;cancer, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory diseases, macular degeneration, transplant rejection, and viral infection
In August 2006 the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America reported that U.S. companies had 160 different monoclonal antibodies in clinical trials or awaiting approval by the Food and Drug Administration