What Is a Recombinant Antibody?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2019
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A recombinant antibody is an antibody made through the use of recombinant DNA technology by inserting a fragment of DNA into a yeast, virus, or bacterium. The resulting recombinant organism will express the antibody even if it is from a different species. A researcher can harvest the antibodies for medical experimentation and research. It is also possible to use them in the preparation of pharmaceutical compounds to treat various diseases.

Recombinant DNA technology requires a lab environment where researchers can work with a variety of organisms and vectors. The vector acts as a carrier for the DNA of interest. The researcher can select the most appropriate organism and vector on the basis of the genetic material and past successes or failures. She carefully inserts the DNA into that of the organism to force it to clone and express the antibody. With controlled conditions, she can breed multiple generations of organisms that will all produce the recombinant antibody.

Some scientific companies make and sell recombinant antibodies. Researchers who want to work with them but do not have the technology to create them can place an order for a standard or custom product. The company will produce the organisms and send a finished product to the scientist. It can also work with a researcher who wants to develop a new recombinant antibody or who needs a customized product for a very specific need.


These antibodies can be valuable for pure research as well as pharmaceutical research and development. It can be possible to use recombinant antibodies in antigen screenings, to identify reactive antigens in a sample. They can also be useful for the treatment of disease. A patient can take a recombinant antibody to fight off an organism her body cannot identify and isolate on its own. This is one approach to cancer treatment, where patients take medications that target cancerous cells and leave the rest alone.

Very controlled conditions are necessary for recombinant antibody production. The researcher needs to make sure that the DNA fragment is complete and comes from the correct section of the genome. If it is wrong or there is an error in the DNA, the resulting antibodies may not be usable or could behave unexpectedly. Introduction of contaminants can also cause problems with antibody production, as organisms may produce the wrong substance or could fail to thrive because of an accidental DNA insertion. Researchers routinely test the output from their labs to confirm that it is pure and usable.


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