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Immunology and cytokine ELISPOT assays

A quick intro to immunology and vaccines

We've all heard about how the first vaccine was invented, right? Edward Jenner had noticed how milkmaids, who were regularly exposed to cowpox lesions, were not easily susceptible to smallpox. Jenner hypothesized that exposure to the cowpox virus somehow granted them immunity to smallpox as well. In an experiment which would now be considered a shocking breach of medical ethics, Jenner inoculated an eight-year-old boy with scrapings from cowpox lesions.

Sure enough, the boy was rendered immune to the ravages of smallpox. Two centuries later, thanks to Jenner's innovation and a Herculean effort from the World Health Organization, smallpox has been practically eradicated from the planet. The study of vaccination was kicked off, and in addition, the field of immunology was revolutionized.

Nowadays, more sophisticated tools are employed to combat viral disease. Scientists now have a much deeper understanding of how organisms combat infection, and how immunity develops at the cellular level. They also have more sophisticated techniques for measuring the functions and secretions of these cells. One such tool is the cytokine ELISPOT assay, which provides a means to count cytokine-producing cells within a suspension.

ELISPOT analysis

While ELISPOT assay techniques have existed for two decades now, modern ELISPOT analysis is typically performed using ELISPOT readers, which employ computer vision techniques to enumerate the cytokine-producing cells. This allows much of the analysis process to be automated, and permits a greater level of accuracy than what can be achieved using manual inspection.

Home        Further resources:  A layman's immunology glossary  |  CTL  |  ELISPOT in China