Chemists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the Scripps Research Institute have developed an innovative technique to create cheap but highly stable chemicals that have the potential to take the place of the antibodies used in many standard medical diagnostic tests.
James R. Heath, the Elizabeth W. Gilloon Professor and professor of chemistry, along with K. Barry Sharpless, the W. M. Keck Professor of Chemistry at the Scripps Research Institute and winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and their colleagues, describe the new technique in the latest issue of Angewandte Chemie, the leading European journal of chemistry.
Last year, Heath and his colleagues announced the development of the Integrated Blood-Barcode Chip, a diagnostic medical device, about the size of a microscope slide, which can separate and analyze dozens of proteins using just a pinprick of blood. The barcode chip employed antibodies, proteins utilized by the immune system to identify, bind to, and remove particular foreign compounds, such as bacteria and virusesor other proteins.
"The thing that limits us in being able to go to, say, 200 proteins in the barcode chip is that the antibodies that you use to detect the proteins are unstable and expensive," says Heath. "We have been frustrated with antibodies for a long time, so what we wanted to be able to do was develop antibody equivalentswhat we call 'protein capture agents'that can bind to a particular protein with very high affinity and selectivity, and that pass the following test: you put a powder of them in your car trunk in August in Pasadena, and you come back a year later and they still work."
In the new work, Heath and his colleagues, including Caltech graduate student Heather D. Agnew, the first author on the Angewandte paper, have developed a protocol to quickly and cheaply make such highly stable compounds, which are composed of short chains of amino acids, or pepti
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California Institute of Technology