It seems like the most elementary of research principles: Make sure the cells and reagents in your experiment are what they claim to be and behave as expected. But when it comes to antibodies—the immune proteins used in all kinds of experiments to tag a molecule of interest in a sample—that validation process is not straightforward. Research antibodies from commercial vendors are often screened and optimized for narrow experimental conditions, which means they may not work as advertised for many scientists. Indeed, problems with antibodies are thought to have led many drug developers astray and generated a host of misleading or irreproducible scientific results.
Reproducing palaeontological results depends on unrestricted access to fossils described in the literature, allowing others to re-examine or reinterpret them. Museums have policies and protocols for keeping materials in the public trust, but accessibility to privately owned fossil collections can be a problem.
There’s been a lot of discussion across many scientific fields about the "reproducibility crisis" in the past few years. Hundreds of psychologists attempted to redo 100 studies as part of the Reproducibility Project in Psychology, and claimed that fewer than half of the replication attempts succeeded. In Biomedicine, a study from the biotech firm Amgen tried to re-create results of 53 "landmark" preclinical cancer studies, and only got the same results for six of them. Amid a growing concern about research reliability, funders including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have called for a greater effort to make research reproducible through transparent reporting of the methods researchers use to conduct their investigations.
The ongoing dialogue has included the role of improperly validated research reagents, such as antibodies, with blame falling at the feet of reagent vendors, researchers, and journals. This article will highlight how the lack of consistent research on antibody validation has contributed to the reproducibility crisis and the role of vendors from Cell Signaling Technology’s (CST) perspective in making research more robust and reproducible.
The lack of reproducibility of preclinical experimentation has implications for sustaining trust in and ensuring the viability and funding of the academic research enterprise. Here I identify problematic behaviors and practices and suggest solutions to enhance reproducibility in translational research.
Numerous variables can torpedo attempts to replicate cell experiments, from the batch of serum to the shape of growth plates. But there are ways to ensure reliability.