A rabbit antibody is an antibody derived from a rabbit. Such antibodies are commercially prepared by laboratories which specialize in the production of antibodies and a range of other products derived from animals. People can order generic rabbit antibodies from these laboratories, or they can make a request for a custom antibody for a specific project. Turnaround time on custom orders can take up to three months.
Labs produce rabbit antibodies by selecting rabbits which are healthy, young, and vigorous, and inoculating them with an antigen. Usually multiple inoculations are performed over the course of several weeks, followed by blood tests to confirm that the rabbit is making antibodies to the antigen, and to find out how many antibodies are being produced. The goal is to produce a high titer or count of antibodies.
Once a sufficiently high titer has been reached, the rabbit is bled out and the blood is processed to prepare an antibody serum. This serum is purified and delivered to the lab or individual who ordered the antibodies. If a particular rabbit antibody is in high demand, a lab may keep production continuous to ensure that there will be a steady supply.
Labs can also provide antibody conjugation services. In this case, a rabbit antibody is conjugated with another compound such as a marker which tags the antibody to make it easy to identify. For example, rabbit antibody conjugation can include the attachment of a tag which will fluoresce.
There are a number of different ways in which a rabbit antibody can be used. One of the most common is in diagnostic tests. Using an antibody developed in a rabbit, a laboratory technician can perform tests on blood from other species to see if they also have antibodies to a specific antigen. This can be done, for example, with an ELISA test; in this case, even though the antibodies in the test may be from different species, they will both lock onto the antigen, allowing for a positive test result.
These antibodies can also be used in scientific research. There is also the potential for the development of therapeutic antibodies in animals, although there are some issues associated with using therapeutic antibodies produced in different species. Cultivating and harvesting antibodies in humans is deemed unethical, which is why animal sources must be used, although it is important to note that humans can volunteer to donate antibodies, as has been done by some people who survive rare diseases and allow serum to be collected from their blood so that it can be injected into someone who has been exposed to the disease.