What Are Custom Antibodies?

Helen Akers
Helen Akers
Scientist with beakers
Scientist with beakers

Custom antibodies are unique proteins that are isolated from a research subject's blood when a specific disease or foreign substance is injected into its system. There are companies that produce custom antibodies for researchers who are attempting to discover vaccines for diseases. Known as custom antibody services, these companies usually obtain samples of the foreign substance and the subject's blood or serum. The foreign substance is known as an antigen and the antibodies are proteins that bind to them.

Antibody suppliers help detect the proteins that bind to antigens. By detecting these proteins, these companies can manufacture custom antibodies that researchers use to develop possible medical treatments. Researchers may experiment with several different antibodies and combinations in order to come up with an effective vaccine. By determining how the immune system responds to certain foreign substances, medical researchers can possibly determine how to help rid the body of diseases.

When the immune system detects a foreign object, substance or cell type in the bloodstream, it "attacks" these cells with antibodies. Each antibody connects with the foreign object in a lock-and-key-like method. In other words, the edge of the antibody fits perfectly into the edge of the foreign substance the same way individual keys fit into certain door locks. Since each antibody is unique to the type of foreign substance, custom antibodies are able to be isolated.

Antibodies can be developed according to the type of test subject that is used. Many medical investigators use animals such as rabbits and chickens to produce custom antibodies. Polyclonal antibodies are a popular form that is used in several research applications, including western blotting and flow cytometry.

Medical investigators use antibody suppliers to provide them with polyclonal antibodies that are not currently in existence. They may consult an antibody catalog prior to ordering a custom solution. Usually the antibody that the researcher needs is not available and a new variation needs to be developed in order for the research project to continue.

In addition to polyclonal antibodies, there are also monoclonals and peptides. Investigators who need to test several different antibodies will usually order peptides. These are commonly referred to as peptide cocktails, since four to five different solutions are developed. This approach also saves the researchers costs since they don't have to submit separate protocols.

Some custom antibody services also help researchers develop antigens. If the researchers are unsure of what type of antigen will cause the test subject's immune system to respond, professional scientists can examine the proteins. Antibody suppliers usually need some type of protein sequence in order to isolate an antigen design that is most likely to cause a reaction within the immune system.

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      Scientist with beakers