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Using proteins to test for COVID antibodies


Fridtjof Lund-Johansen has a analysis job at Oslo College Hospital.Credit score: Fridtjof Lund-Johansen

A day within the life

Fridtjof Lund-Johansen is a proteomics researcher who developed a brand new method to check for antibodies — together with these present in individuals contaminated by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. For the reason that begin of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Protein Array Lab at Oslo College Hospital has been utilizing this expertise to observe the illness throughout Norway and take a look at vaccine efficacy in individuals with compromised immune system. Lund-Johansen’s profile is considered one of 4 by which scientists and clinicians from analysis hospitals speak about their careers, analysis, and describe a typical working day.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in Norway, we would have liked to seek out out who had immunity to the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. I spotted {that a} expertise I had developed might be tailored to measure antibodies towards viruses.

For years, I had been creating a means of utilizing antibodies as a instrument to ‘seize’ and measure 1000’s of different antibodies and proteins concurrently. It provided an alternative choice to mass spectrometry, which is the standard means of measuring proteins, however is tremendous costly and never very quick. We named the approach microsphere affinity proteomics, or MAP, and revealed a paper1 in Nature Strategies in 2018.

MAP makes use of beads referred to as microspheres which have fluorescent barcodes in a position to detect 1000’s of antibodies. It’s much like a expertise developed by Luminex in Austin, Texas. Throughout the pandemic, a lot of corporations and public-health laboratories have used Luminex beads to measure antibodies to SARS-CoV-2.

We teamed up with a colleague at Oslo College Hospital, and quickly screened 1000’s of individuals to see whether or not or not they’d antibodies to the virus. We additionally labored with the Norwegian Institute of Public Well being, which already had inhabitants research underneath means for different functions.

Early final 12 months, when COVID-19 vaccines turned accessible, we began an enormous challenge with different hospitals to evaluate the efficacy of the vaccines in individuals with compromised immune techniques. There are such a lot of individuals who must take medication that inhibit their immune response — to deal with autoimmune circumstances, most cancers and extra. Our laboratory is taking a look at these individuals’s antibodies, and a colleague is trying into their mobile immune response, together with that of their T cells and B cells.

Immune variations

We’ve revealed many articles on this subject. We discovered that there’s large variation within the impact of immunosuppressive medication on the immune response to vaccination. As anticipated, we discovered that drugs that deplete B cells, such because the monoclonal antibodies used to deal with rheumatoid arthritis2 and a number of sclerosis3, enormously suppress antibody manufacturing. Additionally, individuals who obtain organ transplants use treatment that inhibits their manufacturing of T cells. These individuals typically have severely poor antibody manufacturing, however profit from repeated vaccine doses4.

That is the work we now have been doing for just about the previous 12 months. A part of it’s routine lab work, screening 1000’s of blood samples. The opposite half is updating the expertise and the assays in order that we are able to detect antibodies to the entire SARS-CoV-2 variants. We modify the assays with spike proteins from new variants as quickly as we are able to make them in-house or they change into commercially accessible. Some proteins are tougher to supply than others.

I spend most of my time analysing lab knowledge and interacting with clinicians whose sufferers are on immunosuppressant medication. In 2020, I used to be within the lab day by day to develop the strategies. Now, I’m in there once in a while to troubleshoot issues. Lab work is slightly bit like a restaurant kitchen — typically one thing goes improper, after which the pinnacle chef has to come back in and discover out what occurred.

Working in a analysis hospital provides you sure benefits. It could have been troublesome to arrange the logistics of this research by ourselves and get all of the samples. However on the hospital, sufferers are already seeing a complete staff of people that take their blood and set up the lab assessments.

We’re benefiting from the hospital infrastructure. It’s essential to consider this analysis as a complete staff effort.

This interview has been edited for size and readability.

This text is a part of Nature Highlight: Analysis hospitals, an editorially impartial complement. Advertisers haven’t any affect over the content material.

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