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Biological Chemistry

Scientists Called For Standardized Antibodies

Research Reproducibility: Poor characterization of these protein-binding reagents taking toll on life sciences research

by Celia Henry Arnaud
December 21, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 49

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Credit: Yang Ku/C&EN
Many antibody reagents are poorly characterized mixtures. Biologists want to change that. Many antibody reagents are poorly characterized mixtures. Biologists want to change that.
Credit: Yang Ku/C&EN
Many antibody reagents are poorly characterized mixtures. Biologists want to change that. Many antibody reagents are poorly characterized mixtures. Biologists want to change that.

COVER STORY

Research Reproducibility

Problems with experiment reproducibility continue to plague life sciences research. And this year, scientists pointed the finger at antibodies and other poorly characterized protein-binding reagents as a major culprit, calling for a standardization effort.

In a comment in Nature (2015, DOI: 10.1038/518027a), Andrew Bradbury of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Andreas Plückthun of the University of Zurich, and scores of other life scientists proposed that all antibodies used as reagents be sequenced and that their corresponding DNA sequences be used in microbes or viruses to synthesize consistent, homogeneous batches of the proteins. Such an approach would avoid the variation and mixtures that result from current methods of producing polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies.

The scientists also called for an international collaboration to carry out and pay for the necessary characterization. For example, they want the U.S. National Institutes of Health to expand its Protein Capture Reagents program. They estimate that such efforts would cost about $1 billion and take about 10 years to characterize reagents for the protein products of all human genes.

As part of the standardization effort, the International Working Group on Antibody Validation held its first meeting in September in Vancouver, British Columbia. The group, led by Mathias Uhlén of the Royal Institute of Technology, wants to develop validation standards for antibodies. It plans to issue consensus guidelines on antibody validation for users and suppliers by September 2016.

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