New 'library' aids detection of antibodies

U.S. Department of Energy scientists and an MIT colleague have created a library of 1 billion human antibodies on the surface of yeast cells. The work will speed the search for new antibodies, proteins that are effective tools for recognizing specific molecules. It also promises to make the hunt less expensive. “Antibodies are assuming increasingly important roles in such diverse fields as sensors, proteomics, diagnostics, and therapeutics. We have captured a broad sample of the antibody diversity present in adult humans, and expressed it on the surface of yeast cells in a format suitable for quantitative screening,” said K. Dane Wittrup, J.R. Mares Professor of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering. The technology, reported in the February issue of Nature Biotechnology, “provides a robust and direct route to the isolation of useful antibodies” outside a living body, he continued. As a result, it could replace the need to produce antibodies within animals, such as mice. It also opens up new possibilities for rapidly designing medical treatments more acceptable to the human immune system.