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Avian antibodies

Antibodies (also known as immunoglobulins) are proteins that are found in blood or other bodily fluids of vertebrates, and are used by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign objects, such as bacteria and viruses.


The general structure of all antibodies is very similar, but with small variations in part of the protein, millions of highly specific antibodies will exist. For production of specific antibodies, the antigen of choice is injected into an animal. Antibodies collected from bird's eggs have generally been termed IgY (Immunoglobuline from egg Yolk).


IgY is the functional equivalent of mammalian IgG and is actively transported from the hen to the embryo via the egg yolk, which thus contains high concentrations of IgY. One hen can produce the equivalent amount of antibodies to what 10 rabbits will give in the same time period! This along with the non-invasive collection, are some of the reasons why the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) supports the use of IgY.  


In research, purified antibodies are used in many applications to identify, locate and quantify intracellular and extracellular proteins. There are many examples where IgY gives improved selectivity, sensitivity and reliability as compared to IgG.


In immunotherapy, antibodies are generally used through a transfer of ready-made antibodies into the affected individual. IgY is well suited for use in immunotherapy, due to its inherent low toxicity. The low toxicity of IgY can be attributed to the facts that it neither activates the human complement system nor reacts with rheumatoid factors, human anti-mouse IgG antibodies or human Fc-receptors. These are all well-known cell activators and mediators of inflammation.




IgY molecule

IgY eggs