Antibodies are useful in diagnosing diseases since a particular antibody is produced only if a complimentary antigen is present in the organism. This is useful in identifying an unknown disease-causing pathogen.
Antibodies can be produced in the laboratory by a clone of cultured cells that make one type of antibody. These antibodies are called monoclonal antibodies. Malignant cells of the immune system called myeloma cells are used because they divide forever. This is why malignant cells (cancer cells) are so devastating to our body. These myeloma cells are then mixed with lymphocytes that have been designed to produce a specific antibody. When these cells are mixed together, they fuse to become one cell called a hybridoma. Hybridomas divide indefinitely because they have the gene from the myeloma cell. They can produce large amounts of antibodies because they have the gene from the lymphocyte.
Monoclonal antibodies are used to diagnose streptococcal bacteria and chlamydial infections. Some over the counter pregnancy tests use monoclonal antibodies to detect the hormones found in urine during pregnancy.
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