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SLAM: Stable antibody surrogates

1st April 2013


Chemists at 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.

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 peptides.

Scientist Live asked Heather Agnew the questions sent in my our readers.

How did you first come to the notion of creating 'protein capture agents' and what prompted you to do it?

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'in situ click chemistry' seems fairly straight forward almost like vertically connecting Lego blocks. Can you discuss the process in real terms - that is with a specific example of a protein assembled in this fashion - and also discuss how the process aids researchers?

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If you are assembling proteins that essentially act in a similar fashion to antibodies, am I correct to assume that the 'target protein' which the anchor peptide and subsequent peptides react with are specific antigens? If so, can you describe how you would create a 'protein capture agent' similar to a general antibody such as IgA?

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The process of adding one peptide at a time seems very laborious and time consuming. Is it? And if it is, is there a way to speed up the process?

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How do 'protein capture agents' help researchers in labs?

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What is the next for your research? (Editors question)

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