The researchers sealed the tiny chambers with microarraysglass microscope slides coated with capture antibodies. The secreted proteins stuck to the glass, seeding it like a printer's plate being imbued with ink.
Next, the scientists stamped out multiple copies of these microarrays. Studying these, the scientists can examine the antibodies expressed by a single cell, in the context of a whole population of cells. The information is extracted and integrated by customized software and the large sets of data are examined much as they are with DNA microarrays.
The first results, imaged and analyzed by graduate student Eliseo Papa of the Harvard/MIT Health Science and Technology Institute, appeared in PNAS online the week of November 3. They gave a snapshot of the diversity of B cells that were generated by a series of immunizations designed to mimic a multi-part vaccination.
This technique could prove a powerful tool for research and medical testing. Currently, "the only accepted measure of immunological protection is a relatively crude test for whether antibodies are present in the blood," Ploegh says. "Knowing not only the level of antibody in a patient's blood but also how effective the antibodies would be in fighting a specific disease would be a big step."
Knowledge gained this way would be vastly helpful for vaccine development. "It's extremely important to have a rapid test to interrogate a vaccine recipient's immune system," allowing widespread testing among a given human population, says Ploegh.
"Nobody really knows in detail what happens between vaccine boosters," ad
|Contact: Eric Bender|
Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research