• Nature

Biologists plan scoring system for antibodies Manufacturers and users will rank reagents to improve

Biomedical experts plan to create a scoring system that will help researchers choose reliable antibodies for their experiments. The only problems: figuring out how such a ranking would work — and getting manufacturers to adopt the standard.

The idea comes from a workshop hosted this week in Asilomar, California, by the Washington-based Global Biological Standards Institute (GBSI), one of several groups concerned that poorly characterized antibodies are a major culprit behind the irreproducibility of biology experiments. Antibodies are large, Y-shaped proteins that are supposed to bind to specified biomolecules, helping researchers to track and identify them. But reagents that detect the wrong target — or that don’t detect the right one — have led to false findings, wasted resources and acrimonious controversies.

The concept of ranking antibodies is appealing, but doing so for even a fraction of those on the market would be an enormous task, says Roberto Polakiewicz, chief scientific officer of Cell Signaling Technology, an antibody manufacturer in Danvers, Massachusetts. “It’s still not clear how feasible that would be or how it would be implemented.”

The aim is to start by proposing definitions of how an antibody’s performance could be validated, says GBSI head Leonard Freedman. The reagents will need to have separate ranking systems for different kinds of experiments. For example, an antibody that accurately detects a protein in cells that have been broken open can be ineffective if used to detect the same protein in intact tissue.

Researchers would still need to validate even high-scoring antibodies for their own experiments, Freedman says. But a scoring system would give scientists confidence that an antibody will work as expected for its intended use. [Full Article]

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