Harnessing the Immune System's Diagnostic Power

Photo:Immunosignature Profiling

Immunosignature profiling;
©The Biodesign Institute at Arizona
State University

Now a researcher at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University has pioneered a method for profiling the immune system, using clues provided by antibody activity to track an individual's state of health.

The new technique, known as immunosignaturing, could provide rapid, pre-symptomatic diagnosis for a broad range of ailments, from infectious diseases to chronic afflictions to varied forms of cancer, offering the best hope for successful treatment. Immunosignaturing also shows potential as a low-cost alternative for vaccine evaluation, currently a lengthy and expensive undertaking.

As Bart Legutki of the Arizona State University explains, the immune system is exquisitely sensitive to any alterations in an individual's state of health resulting from infection or disease, registering these changes through subtle fluctuations in antibody activity. "The body has already done the hard work of figuring out what is going on inside us," he says, adding, "We just need to interpret the message."

The immunosignature can be thought of as a snapshot of an individual's immune system activity at the point in time the test is taken. The test involves a tiny sample of blood that is spread across a slide, with a resulting image that appears as a pattern of colored spots. The team demostrated that a baseline immunosignature of antibody activity could be established and then compared with an immunosignature following exposure to a vaccine or pathogen.

In the current study, a distinctive shift in the immunosignature pattern was observed in both mice and humans, following vaccination for influenza. Further, the picture of activity appeared to be pathogen-specific—the immunosignature for influenza displayed a characteristic pattern easily distinguishable from that produced by tularemia exposure.

Immunosignaturing provides a universal platform, capable of detecting subtle transformations over the entire antibody profile, regardless of the underlying cause. In order to accomplish this, a single drop of blood, containing an individual's complete set of antibodies, is spread across an array of 10,000 random sequence peptides, imprinted on a microarray slide.

These peptides—chains of amino acids—are capable of selectively binding with antibodies contained in blood, revealing the immune system's complete pattern of activity under normal conditions. The pattern may then be compared with an immunosignature recorded after exposure to a pathogen, a vaccine or any other factor provoking a change in the antibody portrait.

MEDICA.de; Source: Arizona State University