Finding the answers hidden in our antibodies

A new serological test in which an NAU professor played an important role in developing can not only help humanity prepare for and respond to the next pandemic, it also can be pivotal in the search for viral triggers of diseases like diabetes and celiac disease.

Jason Ladner, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Pathogen & Microbiome Institute (PMI), was a leading innovator on PepSeq, a technology that allows scientists to test antibody binding against hundreds of thousands of protein targets at one time, instead of testing one at a time. When we’re trying to track a contagious virus like coronavirus and figure out how to respond to it, getting answers quickly can be the answer between life and death.

This protocol is laid out in detail in an article published earlier in November in Nature Protocols.

“PepSeq: a fully in vitro platform for highly multiplexed serology using customizable DNA-barcoded peptide libraries” describes the novel approach for conducting highly multiplexed serology assays and details the team’s approach for designing and synthesizing custom PepSeq libraries, as well as how to use these libraries to conduct assays and interpret the data. The hope, Ladner said, is to provide a roadmap for scientists everywhere to use the protocol in their own research, moving us closer to answers on some major infectious diseases.

It’s an important step forward as concerns about bioterrorism, zoonotic diseases and the next pandemic are never far away and understanding these pathogens will help enable scientists to develop vaccines as well as tracking their movement and evolution.

“Serology assays are important for diagnosing many human and animal infections,” he said. However, traditional assays often lack sensitivity and/or specificity. Our approach can help to identify which proteins most commonly stimulate an antibody response during infection and which epitopes are specific for the pathogen of interest, rather than being cross-reactive across related pathogens.”

What is PepSeq?

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