Research updates
4 - Engineering antibodies page 7
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6. The future? Link to the Medical Research Council web site
Antibody based drugs
Today, a single small tube contains all the antibodies necessary to specifically bind every protein in the human body - indeed any protein from any animal or plant. Engineered antibodies are used routinely in thousands of laboratories world-wide and hundreds of antibody-based drugs are in clinical trials for therapeutic use. The annual market for antibodies is currently in excess of £1.3 billion and is continuing to grow at an exponential rate.
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Engineered antibodies will continue to be an essential pre-requisite for any biological study of protein function and expression. This is particularly so with the introduction of antibody microarrays, which are an elegant and exciting new system being developed by Dr Ian Tomlinson's group at the MRC-LMB. Antibody microarrays will allow scientists to determine which proteins do what, where and when in the human body. They consist of an inert support onto which as many as several thousands of antibodies have been spatially patterned and immobilised. A biological sample can be washed over the microarray and, according to the binding which occurs, the proteins present in the sample under analysis can be established. This will give a rapid readout of a patient's disease status, metabolism, tissue and blood type. Antibody microarrays will be of direct application in both basic research and in medical diagnostics.