A new research paper sheds light on the way antibodies distinguish between different but closely related 'biomarkers' - proteins which reveal information about the condition of the human body. This new understanding could enable pharmaceutical companies to develop new technologies for quickly diagnosing and treating fatal diseases.
All diseases have proteins, or concentrations of proteins, specifically linked to them called biomarkers. Identifying these can prove a powerful diagnostic tool. These biomarkers are detected by immunoassays a test which mixes a substance (eg blood, urine) with antibodies, which bind to the protein if it is present. The antibodies can then be measured to identify the level of the biomarker, which in turn indicates the presence and extent of an illness.
Antibodies bind with high specificity to one protein molecule or a limited group of molecules (eg hormones), which is why we can use antibodies to test for specific biomarkers. Problems arise when they bind to groups of similar hormones that are associated with normal bodily changes. This leads to false positives and therefore unreliable information.
New research, carried out by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the University of Edinburgh and industrial partners from the UK (Mologic ltd), US (IBM's Watson Research Center) and the Netherlands (Pepscan Presto BV), changes this. The research shows how different proteins are made up, and therefore how they can be identified reliably.
The highly sought solution is 'intelligent selection' of antibody-specific interaction sites on hormones that can differ from similar sites of other hormones by just one molecule.
The research focused on hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), a hormone produced during pregnancy. A subunit of hCG - hCGβ - is secreted by some cancers, meaning detection can give early warning of tumors.
hCG is very similar to other reproductive hormones, known as LH
|Contact: David Lewis|
National Physical Laboratory