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Book and Media Reviews
December 13, 2006

Immunology, History

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2006;296(22):2737-2742. doi:10.1001/jama.296.22.2741

In Köhler's Invention Klaus Eichmann recounts the story of the “invention” of monoclonal antibodies in 1975, one of the major scientific advancements of the past decades, which has profoundly influenced all biomedical fields.

Eichmann first introduces the reader to the central enigma that fascinated immunologists at that time: what mechanism generates the enormous diversity of antibodies (up to 1012 unique antibodies in an individual), which enables the B-cell immune system to recognize virtually any possible antigen? Eichmann describes the many efforts, both at the gene and protein levels, to answer this question. The genetic approach, initially through RNA sequencing and later through gene sequencing, provided essential information but did not yield the final answer. Meanwhile, at the biochemical level, investigators gathered important clues, but that approach suffered from the scarcity of the protein material of individual antibodies. Unlimited amounts of single antibodies were needed.

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