The next three decades of the comet assay: a report of the 11th International Comet Assay Workshop
The International Comet Assay Workshops are a series of scientific conferences dealing with practical and theoretical aspects of the Comet Assay (single-cell gel electrophoresis)-a simple method for detecting DNA strand breaks. The first paper describing such an assay was published over 30 years ago in 1984 by Swedish researchers O. Ostling and K. J. Johanson. Appropriately, the theme for the 2015 meeting was looking to the future: 'The Next 3 Decades of the Comet Assay'. The programme included 25 oral and 43 poster presentations depicting the latest advances in technical developments as well as applications of the comet assay in genotoxicity testing (in vitro and in vivo) and biomonitoring of both humans and the environment. Open discussion sessions based on questions from the participants allowed exchange of practical details on current comet assay protocols. This report summarises technical issues of high importance which were discussed during the sessions. We provide information on ways to improve the assay performance, by testing for cytotoxicity, by using reference samples to reduce or allow for inter-experimental variation, and by standardising quantification of the damage, including replicates and scoring enough comets to ensure statistical validity. After 30 years of experimentation with the comet assay, we are in a position to control the important experimental parameters and make the comet assay a truly reliable method with a wealth of possible applications.