Monoclonal antibodies

Antibodies are proteins produced by the body's immune system when it detects harmful substances such as bacteria and viruses that might cause an infection. They bind to and destroy the harmful substances.

Monoclonal antibodies (Mabs) are clones of a single antibody that have been developed as drug therapies. Each one is designed to recognise a specific target protein which may only exist on a single, or a few, cell types. This means that, in theory, treatments can be designed to have a very specific effect. 

In MS, this means that, if research identifies the cells that are involved in attacking your nerve cells and causing disease activity, monoclonal antibody treatments could be developed that would only affect those cells. An example is the CD20 marker that is found on the surface of B cells, a type of white blood cell that that is thought to be involved in immune attacks on myelin.

Research into these drugs suggests that they could be more effective than other forms of treatments at reducing the number of relapses. However, it has also been shown that they can have serious side effects and any treatment with a monoclonal antibody will need to include monitoring for these side effects.

Examples of monoclonal antibodies used in multiple sclerosis include:

The World Health Organisations standards for naming drugs means that all monoclonal antibodies have a name ending with 'mab'. More monoclonal antibody treatments are under development for MS, and are listed in our Drugs in development page.

Find out more

Wang L et al
Efficacy of alemtuzumab and natalizumab in the treatment of different stages of multiple sclerosis patients
Medicine (Baltimore). 2018 Feb; 97(8): e9908.
Full article (link is external)
Fontoura P.
Monoclonal antibody therapy in multiple sclerosis.
MAbs 2010;2(6):670-681.
Full article (link is external)
Deiss A, et al.
Treating multiple sclerosis with monoclonal antibodies: a 2013 update.
Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics 2013;13(3):313-335.
Summary (link is external)
Krajnc, N et al.
Monoclonal Antibodies in the Treatment of Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis: an Overview with Emphasis on Pregnancy, Vaccination, and Risk Management
Neurotherapeutics . 2022 Apr;19(3):753-773. doi: 10.1007/s13311-022-01224-9
Full article (link is external)
Gelfand JM et al.
Ocrelizumab and Other CD20+ B-Cell-Depleting Therapies in Multiple Sclerosis
Neurotherapeutics . 2017 Oct;14(4):835-841. doi: 10.1007/s13311-017-0557-4.
Full article (link is external)
On this page