Quest for antibodies


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Discovering the best antibodies

What if we could discover which antibody fights which threat the best, and turn these antibodies into biotherapeutics? We could then use them to treat patients who are not making the right antibodies; a cure that stems from within our own body. In order to convey this, Hecklab asked us to collaborate with them on an exciting project.

Female dancer in motion

When art meets science...

...and hyperflexible dancing bodies meet their hyperflexible antibodies! Inspired by recent research from Utrecht University’s Hecklab and realised in collaboration with performers from the Aerialettes, this artist's impression visualises how the best antibodies for combatting diseases can be found within our own bodies. In using bodies and movement, we continued the visual themes of our previous Hecklab videos. This was taken to the next level in this project thanks to the Aerialettes, who really brought the film to life.

3D image of a green antibody on a purple background

Lifelong training

Our immune system can make quintillions of slightly different antibodies – that’s billions of billions, a nearly infinite resource. When one of these antibodies turns out to be successful at its job, the body starts making more copies. As a result of the lifelong training and adaptation of our immune system, what appears to be a simple trial-and-error system is, in fact, something far more clever. At any given moment, we only make those antibodies that are really needed – meaning that only about a couple of hundred or thousand will ever be dominantly present in our blood. 

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A female researcher working in a laboratory

Protein analysis

Using mass spectrometry-based protein analysis, researchers can now directly monitor the repertoire of antibodies present in blood. Just a few droplets is enough to measure how a person is responding to an infection or vaccination. As a result, we can search for specific antibodies present in those who do not get ill – enabling us to identify the optimal weapon against the disease in question.

The film

We really enjoyed the process of creating this film: from animating the antibodies to working with the dancers in a studio and capturing the researchers in their laboratories. When it all comes together like this, it's a great accomplishment. This video was made possible through financial support from Utrecht University’s Faculty of Science, the Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, the Utrecht Molecular Immunology Hub, and Hecklab – as well as the H2020 European Proteomics Infrastructure EPIC-XS.

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