Immunologists Use ELISPOT Kits For Cost-Effective Screening

Labs have found that they can dramatically decrease the cost of their sample screening and analysis workflows by introducing less expensive technologies like ELISPOT in creative ways. ELISPOT is an effective companion technology to analytical methods like flow cytometry and other expensive methods because ELISPOT allows researchers to visually quantify which of their samples are secreting a cytokine of interest with higher specificity and higher sensitivity at a fraction of the cost. Rather than using large panels of flow cytometry antibodies to analyze every sample they want to investigate, researchers use ELISPOT to screen for favorable samples which have the surface antigens or cytokine secretion profiles that they’d like to analyze further. Then, they can follow up on promising samples with costlier analysis methods if necessary.

Unlike the costly analysis methods like cytometry which ELISPOT can partially replace, ELISPOT kits are inexpensive, require no additional equipment infrastructure, and require no advanced training to perform. Furthermore, ELISPOT kits can use fewer cells than methods like flow or CyTOF to investigate the same phenomenon thanks of its high sensitivity and lack of background noise during analysis. Whereas many analytical instruments require tens of thousands of events to generate a usable data set, ELISPOT can provide results with as few as several dozen specific cells per sample thanks to its high sensitivity. Because of these favorable qualities, researchers everywhere are using ELISPOT as a precursor to other analytical methods, allowing them to save costs and derive similar insights with fewer cells.

ELISPOT Is Powerful, And Inexpensive

Integrating ELISPOT with more involved analytical methods might seem a bit odd to some researchers because the technologies produce different types of data which aren’t directly comparable. After all, the purple or blue spots of an ELISPOT kit do not describe cellular subpopulations directly, only cytokine secretion by the populations of cells on the plate. Because ELISPOT uses live cells that are plated onto a 96-well plate, each well contains around 100 μl of media. Most researchers find that the volumes required are flexible, which means that cells can be plated at a range of concentrations if researchers prefer. This means that ELISPOT can be calibrated to analyze a wider range of cytokine concentrations than flow or ELISA, which might not be able to differentiate between samples with similarly low concentrations.

The appeal of ELISPOT is rising as a result of the high costs associated with harvesting deep data. Even as user-friendly flow cytometry systems have made it to market and subsequently into the lab, the costs of flow have remained high. Other analytical methods like CyTOF or Luminex® are even more expensive. At the same time, highly experienced personnel are required for each run of an experiment when using these instruments. The same goes for interpreting the data which the instruments produce. ELISPOT doesn’t suffer from any of these drawbacks, however.

Using ELISPOT To Cut Sample Screening Costs

Understanding where ELISPOT can provide the most value requires a brief thought experiment. Imagine a lab which is investigating the immune response of a subpopulation of T cells as characterized by IFN-y secretion after being exposed to antigen epitopes. If the laboratory were to use flow cytometry or a comparable technology on every sample, they’d need a handful of different antibodies just to make their population of interest analyzable via cytometry. Then, they’d need to use an intracellular staining antibody to detect the IFN-y secretion, which would characterize their population of interest.

Performing the necessary staining protocol and fluorochrome compensation would use an abundance of personnel-hours — and might be fraught with difficulty due to having too few cells to analyze. Iterating this stain to analyze hundreds or thousands of different epitopes would also be very costly. In many samples, the researchers might not find any IFN-y secretion whatsoever if the cells didn’t respond to the antigen. With flow, negative results may be too expensive to risk. The same wouldn’t be true if the lab used ELISPOT, however.

With a bit of time spent in the lab and creative experimental design, ELISPOT kits can be powerful cost-reducing tools. If the researchers investigating IFN-y secretion integrated ELISPOT as a screening method, they’d be able to see which of their samples exhibited the criteria they were interested in examining before following up with a more intensive assay. While extremely inexpensive to run, the right ELISPOT kit can provide the researchers with exactly the information they’re looking for: which antigens prompt a cellular response.

Once the most immunogenic epitopes are identified via ELISPOT kit results, the researchers could investigate the cellular response to these epitopes in deeper detail. As a result, the researchers could build a robust data set of samples which exhibited the characteristics that they were seeking — but without spending thousands of dollars on characterizing irrelevant samples.

When researchers use the scalability and cost effectiveness with ELISPOT, they can build the data set they crave without compromising the budget that they’re held to.

Learn about Cell Sciences’ line of ELISPOT assay kits and order today.