Research ArticleIMMUNODIAGNOSTICS

Epigenetic immune cell counting in human blood samples for immunodiagnostics

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Science Translational Medicine  01 Aug 2018:
Vol. 10, Issue 452, eaan3508
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aan3508

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Counting by chromatin

Peripheral immune cell counts can be wielded to diagnose a variety of disorders. There are limitations to traditional methods such as flow cytometry, including the type of sample needed for analysis. Baron et al. took advantage of distinct immune cell epigenetic signatures and devised a real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) method to perform immune cell counting without the requirement of viable cells. They examined different types of samples from healthy adults or those that were infected with HIV (and consequently had fewer CD4+ T cells). The epigenetic qPCR method correlated well with flow cytometry and could also be applied to dried blood spots to identify newborns with primary immunodeficiencies. Although it is not ready to be deployed clinically, the advantages of using epigenetic qPCR make this an intriguing approach to develop further.