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Published on 1 May 2008

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Magic bullet mass produced

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The current treatment of infectious diseases could be transformed by the use of tailor-made antibodies created using a pioneering production method, scientists have said.

Cloned antibodies based on one of the immune system’s main weapons could even be used in the fight against cancer.

“Magic bullet” antibody medicines are already being used to tackle blood cancers and rheumatoid arthritis.

However, they are difficult to produce and expensive. The new technique opens up the possibility of rapidly mass producing antibodies aimed at specific targets from samples of human blood.

In tests, researchers in the US were able to produce potent antibodies against influenza a month after vaccinating human volunteers.

Antibodies made in this way are now being tested against viruses with pandemic potential, such as the H5N1 strain of bird flu.

The new technique, reported in the journal Nature, involves isolating antibody-secreting cells from the blood of volunteers a week after vaccination with the targeted infectious agent.

Dr Patrick Wilson, from the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation (OMRF), said: “With just a few tablespoons of blood, we can now rapidly generate human antibodies that can be used for immunisation, diagnosis and treatment of newly emerging strains of influenza.”

Copyright © PA Business 2008

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