Undergrad biomedical engineering student is lead author on PLOS ONE paper

Accurate detection of antigens — receptors that are overexpressed on diseased cells relative to healthy cells — is imperative for clinicians to diagnose disease, assess treatment success and predict patient outcomes.

The most common technique used to detect disease-associated biomarkers is known as ELISA, short for “enzyme linked immunosorbent assay.”

The assay involves incubating primary antibodies with biological samples containing the biomarker of interest. Then, detectible secondary antibodies conjugated with an enzyme found in the roots of horseradish are used to bind the primary antibodies. When a color-changing substrate is added, the samples provide a signal that directly correlates to the targeted biomarker concentration.

However, while ELISAs are effective for analyzing samples with high biomarker content, they lack the sensitivity required to analyze samples with low antigen levels.

Now a team of researchers at the University of Delaware has found a way to increase the signal and improve detection. Their findings are reported in a paper, “Antibody-Nanoparticle Conjugates to Enhance the Sensitivity of ELISA-Based Detection Methods,” published in PLOS One on May 11, 2017.

The lead author on the paper, Margaret Billingsley, is an undergraduate biomedical engineering major.

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