What Is a Chimeric Antibody?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 13 December 2014
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A chimeric antibody is an antibody made by combining genetic material from a nonhuman source, like a mouse, with genetic material from a human being. Chimeric antibodies are generally around two thirds human, reducing the risk of a reaction to foreign antibodies from a non-human animal when they are used in therapeutic treatments. A closely related concept is a humanized antibody, made in a similar way but containing closer to 90% human genetic material.

Work on the development of chimeric antibodies began in the 1980s, as scientists began exploring the possibilities of recombinant technology in genetic research. Using recombinant technology, people can cut and splice genetic material from multiple sources and fuse it together. A chimeric antibody contains antibodies developed with animal cells in culture, with sections of the genetic code replaced with human genes in order to address concerns about a potential reaction with the animal's genetic material.

Several drugs based on chimeric antibodies have been approved for human use and numerous others are in development. These compounds take the form of monoclonal antibodies, antibodies produced by cloning a parent cell to achieve a steady and reliable source of antibodies for use in the treatment of diseases like cancer. Drugs made with a chimeric antibody all have the suffix -ximab. Humanized antibodies are identified with the -zumab suffix. This nomenclature is designed to make it easy to distinguish the origins of a drug.

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In the production of monoclonal antibodies, animals are inoculated with a desired antigen, stimulating them to produce antibodies. Cells are harvested and grown in culture, where they are fused with multiple myeloma cells. The fused cells express a variety of antibodies and people can select the cells producing the desired antibody, purify them, and grow them in culture to produce monoclonal antibodies, purified antibodies produced by clones of a single parent cell. To create a chimeric antibody, recombinant technology is used during the process of growing the cells in culture and purifying the desired cells.

Monoclonal antibodies sometimes cause adverse reactions or are less effective because the body of the patient reacts to the foreign DNA from the animal used to produce the antibodies. A chimeric antibody addresses this problem by eliminating some of the animal DNA, reducing the chances of a reaction, and humanized antibodies contain an even lower risk of adverse reactions. Such medications have a number of potential applications in the treatment of disease, as they can be developed to target very specific antigens attached to diseased or infectious cells while leaving other cells in the body alone.

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lluviaporos
Post 3

@Fa5t3r - The whole thing makes me very uneasy. Even the terminology that they use. I mean, the word chimera comes from a mythological monster that was made up of parts of different animals. It's not a positive thing.

I'm not anti-science, I just think people move too fast on these kinds of things. We don't know what the long term consequences are and won't until they actually happen.

Fa5t3r
Post 2

@Ana1234 - Yup, the Auckland Island pig is going to be very useful in the future. They are planning to use them for all kinds of xenotransplantations, including chimeric antibody production. They just have to build up the population first.

I think it's pretty incredible that we can do this, although I'm not sure how much longer it will need to be an option. We are getting better and better at growing tissues in the lab and eventually we won't need an animal to grow the tissues at all. We'll just take a sample from a person, slap it into a container and grow them a new liver, or whatever it is that they need. And that tissue can be used to create antibodies as well.

Ana1234
Post 1

One of the interesting stories I found recently which was used as an example of why extinction is such a bad thing for us, was about these kinds of chimeric medicines.

One of the best animals for antibody and hormone engineering is the pig, because they have a very similar body structure to us and are so common. But, when they started using pigs to create insulin cells for humans, they realized that almost all modern pigs have a disease that can be transferred to humans.

Then, it was discovered that there was a type of pig on an island group that was being cleared for native birds. This pig species had been isolated from other pigs for generation and didn't have the disease. They almost made it extinct, because they were trying to clear the island, but luckily a few were saved and now they are the only way to create this chimeric medicine that could save thousands of lives.

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