The characteristic adaptability of the immune response makes it’s workhorse, the antibody, an indispensable tool for biomedical and life-science research. By co-opting the adaptive immune response in one of a handful of model organisms researchers and commercial reagent manufacturers can generate antibodies that target nearly any structure of biological relevance, although production of antibodies that recognize certain small molecule targets is still a non-trivial affair. For evidence of this, one need look no further than the modern proteomics reagent marketplace with antibodies spanning literally millions of different antigenic targets, many of which are sensitive and specific enough to detect the difference between a protein that has been phosphorylated at a specific residue, and an otherwise identical unphosphorylated counterpart.
The history of the use of antibodies in research mirrors the birth of molecular biology and the rise of modern medical knowledge. Now applied almost ubiquitously in nearly every discipline within the life and biomedical sciences, antibodies were born from an opportunistic drive to develop a simple tool that would lend both specificity and simplicity to proteomics research techniques. Technological advancement has continued to march forward, and in the decades since their widespread acceptance as research tools a plethora of powerful modern techniques leveraging the awesome power of the antibody have developed. Simultaneously, new advanced dyes and reagents have allowed for the systematic improvement of canonical, time-proven antibody based methods like Western blotting and immunohistochemistry, making them simpler, faster, safer, and more “green” than ever before.
Despite advancement in reagent and methodological technologies, modern techniques for antibody production remain strikingly similar to their early predecessors. While a handful of novel and powerful ideas like recombinant antibody production have begun to enter the market, lack of exposure, limited availability, and high cost have prevented them from enjoying the widespread acceptance of more popular, time-proven reagents. In the world of affinity proteomics the conventionally generated polyclonal and monoclonal antibody still reign as king and queen.
Technology for locating and buying antibodies, however, has significantly improved with the dawn of the digital age. Modern listing sites like antibodies-online.com act as a sort of antibody broker, a collective catalog combining the vast offerings from hundreds of different global suppliers (many of whom boast that they produce more than 1,000 new products each year). Sites like antibodies-online make it simple and fast for an inquisitive researcher to rapidly and intuitively compare technical specifications like clonality, isotype, and approved application for millions of different products. Once the decision to purchase a specific reagent is made, the distributor will also facilitate logistics through a simple door-to-door e-commerce platform, sparing the researcher the oft-loathed difficulty associated with procurement of different reagents from multiple non-cohesive sources.