Do Accelerated Antibody Production Protocols Work?
Given the increasingly fast pace with which research is conducted, it’s natural to try to develop custom antibodies as quickly as possible. This has led to the introduction of accelerated protocols that promise ready-to-use antibodies in as little as 28 days. Unfortunately, these short protocols are simply marketing gimmicks that will ultimately disappoint the researcher.
This attempt to speed up the animal’s natural immune response typically leads to the use of harsh immunization protocols that require multiple site injections in locations that are painful to the animal (e.g., foot pads, which prevent the animal from being able to walk). Or, companies tout the use of exotic adjuvants that are somehow capable of tricking the animal’s immune system into an accelerated response. Unfortunately, the reality is that these techniques have little impact in terms of the speed of the immune response and serve only to increase discomfort for the animal.
Regardless of the adjuvant or immunization technique used, antibodies are produced as part of the adaptive immune response and therefore require time to undergo the genetic mutations (somatic hypermutation) required to develop novel antibodies that are specific to the epitopes presented on the antigen.
During the first 4 to 5 weeks of the immunization protocol, antibody affinity is low and very little IgG is present as the immune system initially produces IgM antibodies (which are large pentameric complexes of immunoglobulins that aren’t useful for research applications).
We begin to see development of IgG around the 5th week of the protocol and start to collect serum at the 7th week of the protocol when titers begin to peak.
Affinity maturation, however, still takes several weeks to complete and therefore the highest affinity antibody is collected during the final weeks of our standard protocol.
Regardless of what companies may promise in terms of marketing gimmicks and accelerated protocols, the reality is that it isn’t possible to accelerate this affinity maturation process and therefore longer protocols are required for development of high affinity antibodies.