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Researchers generate human antibodies from B-cells in the lab

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Scientists have produced human antibodies in the laboratory for the first time using a technique that can lead to rapid development of new vaccines to treat a wide range of infectious diseases.

What is an antibody?

Antibodies are produced by the body’s B cells to fight off infections by bacteria, viruses, and other invasive pathogens.

  • When an individual B cell recognises a specific pathogen-derived “antigen” molecule, it can proliferate and develop into plasma cells that secrete large amounts of antibody capable of binding to the antigen and fending off the infection.
  • In addition to encountering a specific antigen, B cells need a second signal to start proliferating and developing into plasma cells. This second signal can be provided by short DNA fragments called CpG oligonucleotides, which activate a protein inside B cells named TLR9. 

Details about Technique that led to producing antibodies in the laboratory:

Researchers, led by Facundo Batista from the Francis Crick Institute in the UK, produced specific human antibodies in the laboratory by treating patient-derived B cells with tiny nanoparticles coated with both CpG oligonucleotides and an antigen. Human antibodies produced in lab for first time

  • With this technique, CpG oligonucleotides were only internalised into B cells that recognise the specific antigen, and these cells are therefore the only ones in which TLR9 is activated to induce their proliferation and development into antibody-secreting plasma cells.
  • The team successfully demonstrated their approach using various bacterial and viral antigens, including the tetanus toxoid and proteins from several strains of influenza A.
  • In each case, high-affinity antibodies were produced in just a few days.
  • Some of the anti-influenza antibodies generated by the technique recognised multiple strains of the virus and were able to neutralise its ability to infect cells.
  • Researchers were even able to generate anti-HIV antibodies from B cells isolated from HIV-free patients.