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Conventional serum contains heterogeneous (a mixture of many kinds of antibodies) antibodies produced in the blood in response to an antigen, whereas, monoclonal antibodies are homogenous (of one kind) and specific (Fig 20.2). They were produced for the first time by G. Kohler (1975) by hybridoma technology and got Nobel Prize for this important achievement. In this technology, he first immunized mouse by injecting a specific antigen to develop specific antibody in the lymphocyte cells of its blood. He fused this mouse lymphocyte cell with a myeloma (bone marrow tumour) cell to produce hybridoma that has the property to multiply indefinitely (myeloma cell character) as well as to produce large quantity of that specific antibody (lymphocyte character) through cell culture (Fig. 20.3).

Fig.20.2 Antigen-antibody binding

Monoclonal antibodies are of great commercial and medical value and used for the:

(i)                 Diagnosis of diseases by assaying specific pathogenic antigenic determinant with
monoclonal antibody, commonly by ELISA (Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay) technique (Fig.20.4 and 20.5).

(ii)               Pregnancy diagnosis by assaying hormones with monoclonal antibody.

(iii)             Immunopurification of interferons, specific antigens, etc.,

(iv)              Treatment of cancer by delivering toxins specifically to the tumour cells by developing specific monoclonal antibodies against tumour cells and then linking these antibodies with the toxins or radioactive substances that kill only tumour cells.

(v)                Identification of blood groups (A,B,O,Rh).

Fig. 20.3 Monoclonal antibody production through hybridoma technique.


Fig.20.4 Use of monoclonal antibodies in ELISA technique.

Ab = Antibody, Ag = Antigen

Fig.20.5 Immuno-PCR technique