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By Julie Steenhuysen
CHICAGO, April 30 (Reuters) - A new process to extract and copy the essential elements of cells that make human antibodies has provided a shortcut to making targeted, infection-fighting proteins known as monoclonal antibodies, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.
The process allowed them to make influenza-specific antibodies in as little as a month, and they said the discovery could lead new treatments for other infectious diseases such as hepatitis C, pneumococcal pneumonia or anthrax.
It could even be used in an influenza pandemic to protect health workers until a vaccine could be made, they said.
"With just a few tablespoons of blood, we can now rapidly generate human antibodies that can be used for immunization, diagnosis and treatment of newly emerging strains of influenza," said Patrick Wilson, an immunology researcher at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, whose study appears in the journal Nature.