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Fighting against disease as easy as eating eggs

The immune system has the remarkable ability to discriminate between self and non-self. If not for the effective functioning of the immune system, the human body would have lost its power to fight against diseases eventually leading to death. //

The immune system produces certain substances called antibodies, which identify the invading pathogens and cancer cells, effectively labeling them as "bad" so that other divisions of the immune system can locate and destroy them.

It is possible to produce these antibodies, which are highly specific for a particular disease or a disease-causing organism. Anti-bodies produced this way are called as monoclonal antibodies. With advances in the field of immunology, it has now been possible to pack these substances into chicken eggs to fight specific invaders.

First, the specific monoclonal antibody that has to be produced is inserted into chicken embryonic stem cells along with the genes that are responsible for the production. These stem cells were then introduced into developing chick embryos. The resulting animals laid eggs that contained milligram amounts of the desired antibodies.

The antibodies demonstrated a 10 to 100-fold greater cell-killing ability compared to therapeutic antibodies produced by conventional cell culture methods, according to the researchers.

"Monoclonal antibodies have demonstrated great success as human therapeutics, with over 25 approved for human therapeutic use and an increasing number of these proteins in clinical development," said Robert J. Etches. The demand for more potent anti-cancer monoclonal antibodies and the need for a cost effective method of production has led to this significant advancement.

The introduction of this new chicken-based production technology will be of considerable interest to an industry coping with the commercial supply of an ever-increasing number of therapeutic antibodies.

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