Development of minimally-invasive field methods for assessing immune function and health
Methodological constraints have limited efforts to investigate physiological function and health in population-based settings. Many important markers of health are present in serum or plasma, but venipuncture is a relatively invasive procedure. In addition, once collected, these samples must be immediately centrifuged, separated, and quick-frozen or assayed, requiring ready access to lab facilities.
A primary mission of the laboratory is the development and validation of assays using whole blood collected on filter paper. Filter paper has been used in hospitals for decades to collect blood from newborns, and it has proven to be a safe and effective means for collecting and transporting samples in several field-based studies.
Blood spot collection on filter paper has several advantages over venipuncture that make it ideal for field-based research in human biology and health:
- Collection requires only a simple finger prick, and is relatively painless and non-invasive;
- Samples do not have to be centrifuged, separated, or immediately frozen;
- The filter paper matrix stabilizes blood so that most analytes do not degrade at ambient temperatures for at least 2 weeks (and often longer);
- Samples are easily stored and transported;
- Multiple assays can be performed from a single drop of whole blood.
We have developed methods for measuring aspects of immune function (antibodies against the Epstein-Barr virus, total IgE) and inflamation (CRP), as well as measures of nutritional status (Transferin receptor, Leptin).