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Clin Chim Acta. 2006 Mar;365(1-2):50-7. Epub 2005 Aug 26.

Present and future of the autoimmunity laboratory.

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Servicio de Bioquímica, Hospital Universitario, Salamanca, Spain and Departamento de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular, Universidad de Salamanca, 37007 Salamanca, Spain.


At present, autoimmunity laboratories are very dynamic owing to the constant and increasing availability of new tests, mainly due to the detection of new autoantibodies. The main characteristic of the autoimmunity laboratory and the one that differentiates it from other laboratories that use immunoassays as basic techniques is that it determines antibodies (autoantibodies) and not antigens. For this reason, immunoassay techniques must employ antigens as reagents. Indirect immunofluorescence has and continues to be a basic technique in autoimmunity studies. However, over the last few years, a significant trend at autoimmunity laboratories has been the gradual replacement of immunofluorescence microscopy by immunoassay. Of the several different forms of immunoassay, the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) format is the one most used in autoimmunity laboratories. Recombinant DNA technology has allowed the production of large quantities of antigens for autoantibody analysis. Flow cytometry for the analysis of microsphere-based immunoassays allows the simultaneous measurement of several autoantibodies. Likewise, autoantigen microarrays provide a practical means to analyse biological fluids in the search for a high number of autoantibodies. We are now at the beginning of an era of multiplexed analysis, with a high capacity of autoantibody specificities. Future trends in this field include immunoassays with greater analytical sensitivity, simultaneous multiplexed capability, the use of protein microarrays, and the use of other technologies such as microfluidics.

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