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Antibody-related Nobel Prize Winners

Antibodies (Abs) comprise roughly 1.5% of our blood.1  This is a very significant metabolic commitment and points to the importance of these molecules for human survival. Our immune systems produce millions of clonotypes of antibodies2  that adapt to new antigens to which we are constantly exposed. An adaptive antibody response first appeared in cartilaginous fish an estimated 400 million years ago and this defense mechanism continued to evolve within this branch of the evolutionary tree.3  With the appearance of mammals some 200 million years later, antibodies became important not just for protecting the host, but also for protecting newborns via their mother's milk. Nursing provides newborns with antibodies elicited in the mother – by the very pathogenic threats present in the local environment – to protect them while their immune systems mature. Another 200 million years later, von Behring and Kitasato4  described the first experimental use of passive immunization in 1890 and began successfully treating patients with convalescent plasma in 1894. Passive immunization with polyclonal antibody (e.g. human convalescent serum or serum from immunized animals) became a common clinical tool during the first third of the 20th century.5  However, adverse reactions in recipients of foreign serum (“serum sickness”)and the advent of the antibiotic era saw passive immunization largely fall out of favor clinically.

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