What Are the Issues Surrounding Antibody Production?

T. Carrier
T. Carrier
Scientist with beakers
Scientist with beakers

Antibody production is one of the most critical aspects of maintaining a healthy living organism. These tiny substances are naturally produced by the human body, but they may also be engineered in order to fight dangerous diseases. Scientists study factors like isotypes and hypervariable regions to understand natural antibody production. They then apply these principles in the laboratory, where specific techniques, quality control, and restrictive measures become major considerations. At a more basic level, scientists must take issues such as hybrid creation and adjuvant use under advisement.

Natural human antibodies are created by white blood cells in the immune system. They help the body eliminate harmful invaders such as bacteria and viruses. Structures called paratropes bind to the harmful substances, or antigens. The main issue scientists investigate in natural antibody production are the proteins’ isotope categories, which determine specific and targeted functions. Hypervariable regions — the parts of the antibody that connect to different body invaders — are also of interest to researchers.

When scientists extract and manipulate natural antibodies, they are creating research antibodies. Two main types of these antibodies exist: the monoclonal antibody and the polyclonal antibody. The former types are are created in a laboratory setting from one cell line. They are generally made by combining disease cells like cancer cells with healthy human tissue cells, with the resulting material being used to create the antibodies. Monoclonal antibodies are specific and typically only bind to one type of harmful substance, such as particular cancer cells.

One major issue scientists face when creating these antibodies is that they are generally made via mice cells. As such, the human body will initially reject them if they are not modified for human use. Scientists solve this dilemma by combining mice cells and human cells to make a hybrid. This results in the creation of humanized antibodies or chimeric antibodies.

Polyclonal antibodies differ from monoclonal antibodies in that they are created from several different cell lines. These antibodies usually derive from extracting blood serum from an animal after it has been vaccinated. Therefore, one issue scientists must consider is what type of animal will be the subject of the extraction. These decisions are made based on the amount of similarity or difference between the extraction animal and the animal — usually human — for which the antibodies will be used, and the concentrated amount of antibodies that can be created. Another issue scientists may address is whether or not to use immune response-enhancing substances called adjuvants.

Specific techniques for antibody production may also vary. Critics, for example, may object to animal testing on ethical or legal grounds. To answer these objections, some scientists propose in vitro human-based research techniques. Since most techniques rely on handling of disease-causing agents, scientists should be wary of contamination and use devices like filters to ensure safe handling. The amount of an antigen injected into a host animal should also be altered for different subjects.

In fact, regulations and resulting time delays represent some of the most prominent barriers to antibody production. Different regions have a wider range of laws and rules governing the health care and medical research industries, and cost effectiveness often goes hand-in-hand with these issues. Antibodies must be stable, efficient, and safe, and repeated testing of these conditions can drive up costs. Once a regimen has been approved, scientists then must consider costs of production and manufacturing. Further, they must take into account how much of a particular antibody can be produced with current technology and available resources.

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    • Scientist with beakers
      Scientist with beakers