Monoclonal Antibodies and Method for Detecting Dioxins and Dibenzofurans
Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs) are toxic pollutants which pose persistent threats to both the human population and to the biosphere in general. Although the risk posed by these contaminants has ultimately come to be appreciated, there has been no economically viable detection system suitable for either identifying the sites of pollution or the populations at risk. An obvious need exists. Exploiting modern techniques of molecular biology and immunochemistry, University of California researchers have developed a sensitive assay system which will make such testing feasible.
They have developed monoclonal antibodies and a set of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) specific for the most toxic PCDD and PCDF isomers. As a highly desirable system of detection, ELISAs have been pursued in the past by the FDA, the USDA, the NIH, the EPA, and the DOE. The monoclonal antibody assays designed by UC researchers are, however, the first to be successfully developed for use against PCDDs and PCDFs. As analytical tools, monoclonal antibody assays are equal in sensitivity to the most sensitive techniques of analytical chemistry. But they are considerably cheaper, more portable, more rapid, and more straight-forward to use. ELISA testing kits are also suitable for mass production, as in the case of modern home pregnancy tests.
In the case of comprehensive PCDD and PCDF field detection, analytical chemistry techniques of equivalent sensitivity, gas chromatography (GC) and mass spectrometry (MS) for example, have simply not been considered up to the task. A useful detection system must be able to detect concentrations of the exceptionally toxic, tetra-substituted PCDD isomer, TCDD, in relative abundances measured in units less than parts per billion (ppb); and must be able to do so in field samples which typically contain larger concentrations of several less toxic isomers, as well as superabundances of chemically related compounds which are relatively benign. Elaborate preliminary steps and multiple analyses are required in order to accomplish this using the techniques of GC and MS. Furthermore, GC and MS have to be conducted in sophisticated centralized laboratories, and are not suited for use on site, in the field. GC costs about $600 per sample analyzed, requires several days to perform, and an highly trained staff. The five monoclonal antibodies developed by UC researchers are each manufactured in pure form by an immortal line of hybridized mouse immune cells. The ELISAs are each based on standard immunochemical techniques. Scaled for mass production, the ELISAs that have been developed by UC investigators will cost about $10 per sample to use (home pregnancy tests can be taken as reasonable measure). The assays can be performed in a single day, and samples can be analyzed in parallel. An individual with minimal training can readily analyze one hundred samples at a time.
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