What are Antibodies?
Antibodies are proteins produced by cells within the body to fight against pathogens introduced to the body. Antibodies are commonly used in research to identify, visualize, and locate intracellular and extracellular proteins. Antibodies are made up of two heavy chains and two light chains. The chains have a variable region, referred to as V, that binds to specific epitopes. The second region is the constant region referred to as C, which interacts with white blood cells and other molecules within the immune system.
What Types of Antibodies are There?
Commercial antibodies commonly come in two different types, Polyclonal or Monoclonal. Polyclonal antibodies are simple to create within a lab. Scientists inject an animal with certain human epitopes of interest, collect the animal’s blood over several weeks, and fractionate it to separate the antibody from other blood components. The resulting fractioned antibody then contains all the animal’s circulating antibodies that include specific antibodies for your epitope of interest.
Monoclonal antibodies are created similarly but more labor-intensive. After injecting the animal with the scientist’s epitope of interest, the scientist removes the blood to separate the white blood cells from the rest of the blood. The white blood cells are what produce the antibodies.
Then, the white blood cells are fused with myeloma cell lines that form hybridomas. This step allows for scientists to culture antibody-producing cells specific for the epitope of interest indefinitely. Now, scientists can harvest the best culture to produce the most effective antibodies.
What are Antibodies Used for?
Antibodies are used for targeting proteins that are produced by various pathogens. Scientists use antibodies to identify, purify, and target several proteins for drug development and clinical research within the lab. Protein Identification is the most common use of antibodies in biology research labs.
Medical pathologists use antibodies to identify proteins that are associated with disease states. Protein Purification is another standard method used. Antibodies are used to capture single proteins from the molecular soup called cell lysate.
How Do Antibodies Stop Infection?
Plasma cells release large amounts of antibodies within the body to circulate and isolate various pathogens leading to infection. This is important because viruses that enter the body replicate within the body’s cells. When antibodies attack the virus, it eliminates the risk of becoming sick. These antibodies also signal white blood cells to the threat and allow the white blood cells to attack the virus. Once the white blood cells attack pathogens, it is highly likely that the pathogen will be destroyed as long as the body knows how to combat these foreign agents.
With Antibodies, Will We Always be Protected?
Even though your body has antibodies flowing through your blood, some certain viruses and bacteria have not been exposed to humans before. This means that your body may not know how to attack the threatening pathogens or even notice that they are a threat.
Your immune system will catch up eventually; however, there is the risk of becoming sick even with a properly functioning immune system. This is where lab-created antibodies can be effectively introduced into the body to fight unknown viruses. With this, the immune system can become adaptive to the environment.
Why is it Important to Have an Adaptive Immune System?
An adaptive immune system is essential within the body because it allows your immune system to keep up with various viruses and bacteria introduced to the body. Your body will learn how to defend and fight against different viruses and bacteria. In the event you are exposed later on to a certain virus or bacteria, your body will have the ability to begin fighting the illness and make your immune system even stronger than before.
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