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Harnessing the immune system's diagnostic power
Date:6/8/2010

An inexpensive system for earlier disease diagnosis could save innumerable lives. It would also have a profound impact on the nation's healthcare industry, currently buckling under the strain of spiraling costs.

Now Bart Legutki, 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 work was done in collaboration with Stephen Albert Johnston, director of the Institute's Center for Innovations in Medicine.

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 Legutki 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 demonstrated 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, t
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Contact: Kimberly Ovitt
kimberly.ovitt@asu.edu
480-727-8688
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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