A new understanding of biomarkers, which could enable pharmaceutical companies to develop new technologies for quickly diagnosing and treating fatal diseases, has been provided in a new study.
It sheds light on the way antibodies distinguish between different but closely related 'biomarkers' - proteins that reveal information about the condition of the human body.
These biomarkers are detected by immunoassays - a test which mixes a substance (e.g. blood, urine) with antibodies, which bind to the protein if it is present.
Antibodies bind with high specificity to one protein molecule or a limited group of molecules (e.g. 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.
The new study 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 Centre) and the Netherlands (Pepscan Presto BV), has solution to it.
The research shows how different proteins are made up, and therefore how they can be identified reliably.