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Novel Immune-Profiling Method Reports Specific Immune Cell Types Using Only DNA from Blood

By LabMedica International staff writers
Posted on 10 Feb 2022
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A novel immune-profiling method can return detailed immune cell type proportions using only DNA from blood with no requirement for intact cells, potentially allowing for individualized prediction of outcomes in immunotherapy patients.

Researchers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (Lebanon, NH, USA) have introduced the novel immune-profiling method that is capable of reporting specific immune cell types using only DNA from blood rather than from fresh cell samples. Flow cytometry is a powerful and complex technology used to count, sort or measure characteristics of cells and to detect biomarkers. It is also widely used in research, as well as in clinical studies and diagnosis of disorders such as blood cancers. However, flow cytometry requires intact and usually fresh cells that must be processed promptly to preserve cell integrity and surface markers. Those surface (and a few nuclear) markers are used to identify immune cell types.

The new approach offers the opportunity to ask and answer questions about the immune system in health and disease using the millions of stored blood samples from biobanks worldwide - samples that already exist for other reasons. In the clinical setting, the complete cell blood count (CBC) differential is used routinely to diagnose patient conditions and is limited to five general immune cell types. In the new method, immune cell identification is extended to include twelve immune cell types, including several that are not determined with CBC, such as naïve and memory T and B cells. Large-scale human population studies and clinical trials can now access detailed information about individual immune status in a standardized, cost-effective manner, without some of the limitations of existing methods. The advancement paves the way for new research of systemic immune factors in disease and aging.

When the method was applied to cancer patients, immune profile responses to chemotherapy and radiation therapy were observed. The researcher are now investigating how this new method may help predict response to immunotherapy. The team’s next steps are to evaluate the many potential uses for this new tool to understand how it will best and most immediately benefit clinicians and patients. Such technology could elicit a paradigm shift in the way clinicians, patients and researchers harness and understand information about the immune system in health and disease.

“Our technology requires minimal input to use blood DNA samples stored under different conditions,” says lead author Lucas A. Salas, MD, MPH, PhD, member of NCCC's Cancer Population Sciences Research Program (CPS) and Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. “This is ideal in population epidemiological research and potentially for clinical settings where samples cannot be processed immediately.”

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Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center 

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