Antibodies serve as a powerful tool in accomplishing basic biology in the lab. Ranging from basic immunoblots to complex elisa assays are only possible because of antibodies.
Antibodies are proteins produced by immune cells and are the basis of immune system where they function to recognize foreign entities, for example bacteria etc. Antibodies are Y shaped proteins often termed as immunoglobulins (Ig), which recognize a specific area on a proteins’ surface known as an antigen. Production of antibodies is the primary function of the humoral immune system. Binding of an antibody to a foreign object either blocks its function directly or flags it for degradation by the immune system. Analogous to having a postal code for a particular house, antibodies are specific towards the proteins they bind. In this scenario the postal code represents the antibody and a particular house is the target protein. Just like postal codes come in handy to find houses part of a big city, antibodies find and label specific proteins within a cell. This specificity of antibodies has been exploited overtime to develop vaccines and research tools. Vaccines are essentially antigens that trigger the formation of particular antibodies required for immune function. Similarly, antibodies for research purposes are raised by injecting antigens into animals (mouse, donkey, goat etc.), thereby inducing the production of antibodies that recognize those antigens. These antibodies can then be purified from the animal serum.