Taking a Hands-Off Approach to Western Blot Processing

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A new platform makes automated western blot processing accessible to more labs, freeing up researchers’ valuable time, enabling the recovery of valuable antibodies for re-use, and providing consistent results blot after blot.

Western blotting: an old but gold protein analysis technique

Scientists first described the western blot procedure in 1979, and over the next four decades, more than 400,000 research articles mentioned the technique in their title, abstract, or keywords. It is the most-used protein analysis technique and is routinely performed in biochemistry and molecular and cell biology labs, reaching every corner of research: academia to industry, basic to translational, drug discovery to in vitro diagnostics.

Western blotting has also played a central role in countless notable discoveries. It has helped us better understand the proteins involved in the development of multidrug resistance; it has enabled researchers to identify antibodies that allowed them to characterize the then-novel retrovirus behind the AIDS epidemic; it even aided the discovery of tau proteins, key players in Alzheimer’s disease.

Room for improvement

Despite its frequent use, obtaining quality results from a western blot can still be challenging. In one survey, 41% of the scientists reported that their western blots fail at least 25% of the time. 

A wide range of factors – involving experimental samples, reagents, and other materials, along with the researcher’s technical implementation of the procedure – influence the western blot’s reliability and reproducibility. Plus, the high number of steps provides ample opportunities for introducing experimental variation or mistakes. 

Tremendous improvements have become available for the western blot technique over the years. Precast gels, user-friendly electrophoresis and transfer devices, high-quality antibodies, enhanced detection chemicals, and digital imaging systems are all readily available and help streamline the western blot workflow and increase the sensitivity of the assay. 

Nevertheless, the blocking, incubation, and washing steps of the procedure create a significant time bottleneck for researchers. Various automated tools are available on the market to eliminate the need for hands-on processing, but these are often costly and out of reach for many research groups. 

Affordable automated western blotting in every lab

US biotech GenScript is helping researchers from labs of all sizes eliminate this bottleneck and free up their time with the eZwest Lite – a cost-effective, automated western blotting platform that is easy to use and provides consistent high-quality results. This instrument performs the membrane blocking, primary and secondary antibody incubations, and all washing steps of the western blot procedure.

eZwest Lite is an open platform, so there’s no need to purchase expensive, proprietary consumables to run western blots on the system, allowing researchers to continue using their own preferred or homemade reagents. Plus, the platform recovers the primary and secondary antibodies for re-use on future blots, saving even more costs. 

“The expense of consumables is a key consideration in many research labs,” explains Sherlin Lee, Marketing Specialist at GenScript. “With eZwest Lite, the cost per blot is the same as with conventional manual processing, and this platform recovers the typically expensive primary antibody, so researchers can use it multiple times.” 

eZwest Lite can process two membranes simultaneously in its cassette using the same reagents and conditions. The user-friendly interface enables the quick and simple operation and creation of custom protocols that can include as many steps and substeps as needed. The instrument doesn’t take up much space on the lab bench, it operates quietly, and it carries out an automatic cleaning program after each run.

Freeing up time and improving consistency of results

To achieve the highest western blot sensitivity, the eZwest Lite requires overnight processing, although assays known to have strong signals can be processed more quickly using a shortened, three-hour protocol. 

These times are comparable to those associated with manual processing. The actual time savings from eZwest come from freeing up the researchers’ time: instead of being tied to their lab timer and western blot, they can focus their efforts on other important tasks. 

The eZwest Lite also improves the consistency and reproducibility of western blot data because it standardizes the procedure and eliminates variations due to manual handling and human error. The quality of data from eZwest blots is comparable to and often better than that from manually processed blots or those processed using other automated platforms.

eZwest produces similar or better results than conventional manual processing and delivers consistent and reproducible data blot after blot.

“Western blots have a lot of room for human error because of the multistep process, and automating the procedure helps minimize human error and inconsistent results,” explains Lee. “The eZwest Lite platform brings automated processing into the reach of more researchers.” 

GenScript is a one-stop-shop for protein analysis solutions and offers a range of products supporting the entire western blotting workflow, from protein purification and electrophoresis, transfer, and staining. 

While there’s no indication that the use of the western blot is declining after four decades, researchers can certainly say good-bye to the bottlenecks from manual, hands-on processing and hello to consistent, reliable western blot results thanks to GenScript and the new eZwest Lite platform.

Would you like to simplify and streamline your western blotting workflow? Read more about the eZwest Lite automated western blotting platform on GenScript’s website.

Header image via and article images via Genscript

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