When most individuals think of antibodies, they think of the human body’s immune system, and rightly so. Also known as immunoglobulin, antibodies refer to specialized Y-shaped proteins produced by the body in response to a foreign body invasion.
However, most people don’t know that antibodies also have numerous uses outside the body. Antibodies are at the heart of researchers contributing to significant development in various fields, including diagnostics, therapeutics, and immunization.
The researches create the need for large-scale antibody production, synthesizing large batches of specific antibodies. Below are some interesting facts about synthetically-produced antibodies used during the study.
Antibody Binding Capacity is the Backbone of Research Assays
Researchers use antibodies to carry out immunoassays or tests, vital to verifying or dismissing various research findings and theories. An immunoassay is a test conducted to detect the presence of a specific molecule through antigen-antibody binding. Such tests help measure the antigen and antibody concentration in a given sample.
However, before researchers can get to the immunoassay test, they first need to acquire the antibodies. There are five different types of antibodies or isotypes, having distinct structures and characteristics. Each isotype produces monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies, which have various binding sites or epitopes for antigens.
Antibodies feature a Y-shape with the two tips of the Ys acting as binding sites for antigens. The antibody-antigen binding uses a similar principle to the lock-and-key mechanism. Monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies differ in that the former binds to specific portions (epitopes) of the target antigens. In contrast, polyclonal antibodies can bind to multiple sites on the antigen.
Both antigen types have their advantages and disadvantages when used in various research designs. Therefore, the researchers must decide on the ideal antigen type for their project beforehand.
Researchers focus on primary and secondary antibodies during their immunoassays, primarily monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies binding directly or indirectly to antigens. Primary antibodies help identify antigens by binding to them, while secondary antibodies bind to the primary antibodies.
Immunoassays are crucial because not all antibodies produced during an immune response act on antigens. Therefore, antigen recognition goes a long way in facilitating research.
The Intended Antibody Use Dictates The Antibody Host
The prevalent method that accredited labs use in commercial antibody production for research is harvesting the antibodies from animal B-cells. It entails using adaptive immunity whereby host animals (normally vertebrates) get injected with an antigen to produce specific antibodies.
However, not any animal host will do. Mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, sheep, goats, chickens, llamas, and horses are the most popular in vivo antibody synthesis hosts. Each host has its advantages and disadvantages when used to express monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies.
Researchers consider, among other factors, the genetic distance between the host and the antigen, ease of bloodletting, antibody volume, and overall cost. Smaller animals like rabbits and mice are easy to house and maintain because environmental factors like diet and a stress-free environment improve antibody quality.
But since mice bleed a small blood volume, and guinea pigs are difficult to bleed, rabbits are a better choice. They respond to more antigens and are better at producing polyclonal antibodies.
Where rabbits may not suffice, larger animals like sheep, goats, llama, and horses may do, although their maintenance and antibody extraction is more costly. Regarding animal welfare, the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee monitor commercial antibody production to prevent animal cruelty during the process.
Animal-free Antibody Production Is Available
Animal immunization with antigens to release antibodies is the dominant antibody production method. However, animal immunization is neither the only commercial antibody production method nor the best one.
Animal-free antibody production methods, like recombinant antibody production, exist, although they remain grossly underutilized. Recombinant antibody production utilizes in vitro cloning of antibody DNA to generate antibodies for research.
Such methods have an advantage over animal immunization methods because of consistency over different antibody batches. They also utilize more cell lines, allowing for a higher antibody quantity production on a lower carbon footprint.
The immunization methods have always held concerns for scientists, animal rights bodies, and even some government bodies. Fortunately, continual campaigns on the advantages of animal-free antibody production are generating traction for animal-free antibody production methods.
Researchers Can Optimize Antibodies To Improve Strength in Practical Applications
Animal immunization-derived antibodies vary from batch to batch. The same antigen introduced in one host may produce antibodies with a varying affinity level when introduced in a second host.
Fortunately, researchers can optimize the derived antibodies to tackle such discrepancies. Besides discrepancies, the researchers can also enhance an antibody’s affinity to improve its performance, whether in diagnostics or therapeutics.
Researchers can also enhance an antibody’s stability allowing it to stay longer in the body than it typically would. They achieve this optimization by using antibody enhancement toolkits to alter an antibody’s genes. Such genetic alterations then cause mutations on the antibody’s surface and core structure, leading to optimized performance.
Human Antibody Libraries Exist
Animal-free antibody production relies on antibody gene cloning. The primary antibodies used in the cloning process would not be available without antibody libraries and repositories.
Such repositories store antibodies against target antigens for easy retrieval. They play a crucial role in facilitating antibody research due to easy access and because the antibodies in repositories have a higher affinity for antigens.
Antibody research is single-handedly driving the biomanufacturing industry, facilitating advancements in medical technology and treatments. Now that you understand its value to society, you can better appreciate antibody-centric research.