Glossary

Definition of selected terms

Alemtuzumab (trade names: MabCampath/Campath/Campath-1H/Lemtrada)
A monoclonal antibody that simultaneously targets lymphocytes (T-cells) and activates human complement.
Antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCAs)
A group of autoantibodies.
Aplastic anaemia
A condition where the bone marrow produces insufficient new cells to replenish blood cells.
Autoimmune disease
This disease arises when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue.
Behcet's disease
A rare but chronic condition caused by inflammation or swelling of the blood vessels. Common symptoms are painful mouth and genital ulcers.
Bone marrow transplant (BMT)
Bone marrow is a spongy material found inside the bones that helps to replenish stem cells. The transplant involves taking bone marrow from a patient suffering from leukaemia prior to radiation and chemotherapy and then being transplanted back to rejuvenate any bone marrow and blood cells damaged by treatment.
Chimeric antibodies
Antibodies with a mixture of human and non-human components. Chimeric antibodies are approximately two-thirds human in form.
Chromatography
A chemical technique used for separating the components of a mixture. During the test a mixture dissolved in a liquid or gas is passed through a column, paper or glass support, where the elements of the mixture are either absorbed or hindered to varying degrees and thereby become separated. The technique is used both for the purification and collection of components as a means to quantify and measure component parts in a mixture.
Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)
A cancer of the white blood cells. This is manifested by the abnormal growth of lymphocytes in the bone marrow and lymph system, which causes swelling in the lymph nodes as well as fatigue, anaemia and persistent infections.
Complement
Small protein made by the immune system which helps antibodies and phagocytic cells remove foreign invaders from the body.
Cyclosporin
A drug that causes suppression of the immune system. It is used to prevent organ rejection in patients receiving transplants.
First-line treatment
The first form of treatment given for a disease. It is generally accepted as the best treatment available for a particular disease.
Fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS)
This is a specialised form of flow cytometry that allows for the sorting of a heterogeneous mixture of biological cells into two or more containers. The cells are sorted according to their specific light scattering and fluorescent characteristics.
Graft-versus-Host Disease (GVHD)
This is a condition where transplanted bone marrow (graft) attacks the recipient (host) body's organs and tissue cells which is regarded as foreign.
Graves' disease (thyrotoxicosis)
A condition caused by an over-active thyroid, a gland at the back of the neck. Those suffering from the condition can have an enlarged thyroid and bulging eyes. Symptoms include an increased heartbeat, muscle weakness, disturbed sleep and irritability. If left untreated it can cause heart complications.
Goodpasture's syndrome
A condition where a person's lung and kidneys are attacked by their own antibodies, which can result in permanent damage.
Humanised antibodies
Antibodies from non-human species whose protein sequences have been re-engineered to increase their similarity to antibody variants produced naturally in humans.
Hybrid cell
A cell formed by fusion of two cells of different origin.
Hybridoma
A hybrid cell made in the laboratory through the fusion of an antibody producing lymphocyte with a non-antibody producing cancer cell, usually myeloma or lymphoma. The hybridoma proliferates and produces a continuous supply of a specific monoclonal antibody.
Immune system
A biological defence system in humans and other mammals that protects the body against the invasion of foreign material (such as pollen, or invading micro-organisms) and helps prevent cancer.
Immune thrombocytopenic purpura
A blood disorder where there is an insufficiency of platelets.
Immunoglobulin G (IgG)
The most common type of antibody made by the immune system which provides long-term immunity.
Immunoglobulin M (IgM)
The first type of antibody made by the immune system following exposure to a foreign invader. They survive only a short-time.
Immune tolerance
The process by which the immune system ignores a protein, cell or tissue in one's own own body.
Immunosuppresant
A drug given to suppress the immune system.
Interferon
A small protein messenger produced by the immune system in response to the presence of pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites or tumour cells. Interferon has two functions. It sends signals to neighbouring cells to trigger their resistance mechanisms, and it activates other immune cells that kill invading pathogens.
Leukaemia
A cancer of white blood cells.
Lupus
A condition where the immune system produces far too many antibodies which results in inflammation in any part of the body. Symptoms include fatigue, skin rashes, depression, anaemia, feverishness, headaches, hair loss and mouth ulcers.
Lymphocytes
A type of white blood cell which plays an important role in the body's defence mechanism. The two primary types of lymphocytes are B lymphocytes (B-cells) and T lymphocytes (T cells). Both originate from stem cells in the bone marrow. Those that migrate to the thymus mature into T cells, while those that remain in the bone marrow develop into B cells. Each lymphocyte has a receptor molecule on its surface which it uses to bind antigens (foreign substances) and help to remove them from the body. In the presence of an antigen, B cells can differentiate into plasma cells which secrete large quantities of antibodies.
Monoclonal
Derived from a single cell.
Monoclonal antibody
This is an antibody produced from a single clone of cells in a laboratory. The advantage of monoclonal antibodies is that they can be made on a large-scale and each one is identical to the other. Highly specific in their target, monoclonal antibodies are today used as reagents for basic research tools, and as diagnostic tools and therapeutics. In the context of therapy monoclonal antibodies can be used alone, or they can be used to deliver drugs, toxins, or, in the case of cancer, radioactive material directly to a tumour.
Myeloma
A cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell found in the bone marrow.
Myeloma cells
Plasma cells that have become cancerous. Myeloma cells can spread throughout the bone marrow and into the bone, causing thinning of the bone, pain and sometimes fractures. Such cells produce a large amount of a single type of abnormal antibody. Myeloma cells are an essential tool for monoclonal antibody production.
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
A type of blood cancer.
Multiple sclerosis (MS)
This is an inflammatory disease which causes damage of the myelin, the insulating cover of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Symptoms range from loss of vision, difficulties with balance and co-ordination, uncontrolled muscle movements and fatigue. Patients can experience isolated attacks of their symptoms (known as relapsing-remitting MS) or have their symptoms build up over time (progressive MS). Symptoms may go away completing between attacks, but neurological problems can become more permanent as the disease advances.
Patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property rights granted by a government to an inventor or their assignee for a limited amount of time in exchange for the public disclosure of the invention. A patent provides the right to exclude all others from making, using, or selling an invention or products made by an invented process. Like any other property right, it may be sold, licensed, assigned or transferred, given away or simply abandoned.
Phagocytes (phagocytic cells)
Cells found in the blood, bone marrow and other tissues which enclose and destroy harmful micro-organisms and other foreign substances.
Polyarteritis nodosa microscopica
A rare disease caused by the immune system attacking and causing inflammation of blood vessels which can leads to the damage of any tissue or organ. Common symptoms include fever, weight loss, abdominal pain, high blood pressure, heart trouble nerve pain, numbness in limbs, inflamed joints, muscle pain, headaches, kidney failure and intestinal bleeding. If left untreated it can be fatal.
Recombinant DNA
Also known as gene cloning or splicing, recombinant DNA is a technique that produces identical copies (clones) of a gene.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
An autoimmune disorder that can cause chronic, inflammation of the tissues and organs, primarily synovial joints. Symptoms can be disabling and painful. If left untreated the condition can result in in substantial loss of mobility and function.
Spleen
An organ that plays an important role in the immune system and helps in the creation of red blood cells. The spleen removes old red blood cells and recycles iron. It also synthesises antibodies and removes from circulation antibody-coated bacteria and antibody-coated blood cells.
T-cell
A type of lymphocyte, white blood cell, that originates in the thymus and protects the body from infection.
Third-line treatment
Treatment that is given when both initial (first-line) and subsequent treatment (second-line) do not work or stop working.
Tissue culture
A technique used to keep tissues or cells alive separate from an organism.
Vasculitis
A term for a group of diseases characterised by inflammation of the blood vessels, including arteries, veins and capillaries. The inflammation is the result of the immune system mistakenly attacking its own blood vessels. Causing disruption to the blood flow, this inflammation can damage the body's organs.
Wegener's granulomatosis
A condition caused by inflammation of blood vessels which can damage of the lungs and kidneys and be fatal.

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