Why plasma cells?

This is a drawing of a plasma cell. Plasma cells are B cells that are secreting soluble antibodies. When an antigen is presented to a naive B cell, the cell responds by dividing rapidly. Naive B cells differentiate into plasma cells and memory B cells. The plasma cells are terminally differentiated, meaning they do not divide and are short-lived. The impressive thing about plasma cells is not their lifespan, but their function. Plasma cells secrete antibodies at an incredible rate: thousands of molecules per second.

Not only do plasma cells secrete antibodies at a remarkable rate, they are also secreting very good antibodies. Many plasma cells have undergone what is called affinity maturation. Mutations and rearrangements in the antibody sequence increases their affinity to the antigen. This means that plasma cells are pumping out thousands of high affinity antibodies per second!

At SCT, we believe plasma cells are excellent subjects for antibody discovery. Because they do not proliferate, they are difficult to interrogate by traditional methods. Antibody discovery methods that rely on culturing cells for some time will not effectively be able to capitalize on the benefits in working with plasma cells. AbTheneum can directly interrogate plasma cells because we work fast. In fact, the same day cells are harvested, our lab isolates the plasma cells from secondary tissues, deposit those plasma cells on our picoliter device, captures the secreted antibodies, and captures the encoding mRNA.

AbTheneum is also able to find the binding activity of the antibodies from plasma cells. Since the antibody is being secreted by each plasma cell, they can be captured on our solid support. Captured antibodies are interrogated off-line for a myriad of different characteristics. Lastly, the heavy and light chain sequences of those antibodies are captured for all the cells. These sequences are correlated with the binding characteristics on a per cell level.

We believe that nature is best at making antibodies. Thousands of variables and mutations made at every second is how immune systems are able to target threats effectively. AbTheneum is able to collect the data from these cells to find the best antibodies.

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