As unique as a snowflake… a phrase that has not only come to characterize the magic of the winter season but also epitomize a certain author’s generation.
Each year, septillions (10²⁴) of snowflakes fall to the surface of the Earth and even then, that number may be an underestimate. To the naked eye, each snowflake appears as a nondescript white clump of frozen water molecules and yet each one is completely distinct from the other.
For starters, experts often refer to snowflakes as snow crystals, which can take on an infinitesimal number of shapes (from the popular six-armed stars to needles and clumps). Snow crystals first form around a nucleation point, such as a dust particle or pollen seed, and continue growing when water vapor in the air converts directly into solid ice without going through the liquid phase; a process referred to as deposition. A characteristic hexagonal crystal lattice often results from this process due to the specific orientation and bonds formed between oxygen and hydrogen atoms.
From humidity to temperature, which tend to vary from year to year and with geographical location, each condition plays a vital role in morphing the snowflake’s shape as it gravitates to the Earth’s surface. Adding to their complexity, each offshoot on one of the snowflake’s six branches grows independently from the other, just as a human’s arms and legs, and yet result in remarkable symmetry. By that premise, a snowflake would have to tumble at the exact same spot and under the exact same conditions as its predecessor for it to have a chance of looking exactly the same but even then, there is no guarantee.
Scientists have found exact replicas of fractions of snowflakes, and highly similar complete ones. The only time an exact replica has been observed is when Mother Nature is completely removed from the equation and the snow crystals are grown in a controlled setting in the lab. As all scientists know most things tend to work in vitro, it is in the in vivo setting where things get complicated.
For the sake of being scientists, let us acknowledge that there is in fact the probability, however unlikely, of one snowflake having the exact same shape as another. These two snowflakes will still remain distinct and vary at the atomic level. This can be attributed to the inclusion of different isotopes of certain atoms, such as a deuterium atom (a hydrogen atom that has both a proton and neutron within its nucleus), which can occur once in every five thousand water molecules.
As this is a blog on hybridomas, you may ask, what does this have to do with antibodies? Well, just as meteorological conditions generate unique and diverse snowflakes, antibody discovery at LakePharma generates unique and diverse antibodies with distinct binding and functional profiles as well as diverse variable domain sequences, target after target. Incorporating campaign-tailored immunization schedules, optimized adjuvant and immunogen mixtures, PentaMiceᵀᴹ (the most immunologically diverse mice on the market), and enhanced lymphocyte extractions, all directly improve the chances of discovering that one coveted antibody.
In light of this, start your next hybridoma campaign at LakePharma, where no two projects are the same and we promise to treat your discovered antibodies like the snowflakes they really are!