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Illuminating Antibody test

A quick colour-changing test reveals presence and magnitude of antibody response

14 July 2020

Illuminating Antibody test

Whether fighting the coronavirus or some other pathogen, the body’s immune system produces small proteins called antibodies that recognise and bind to the invader. Rapid tests for the presence of antibodies in a person’s blood tend to be binary – yes or no, the antibodies are there or not. To get quantitative information, which can be helpful for knowing whether an infection is ongoing, the extent of someone’s immunity, and so on, more extensive laboratory tests are required. A newly developed antibody test (pictured), however, is both fast and quantitative. It’s comprised of cotton threads (the star patterns) loaded with bioluminescent molecules that change colour from green to blue when antibodies bind them. A drop of blood is placed on a star and the more antibodies present, the bluer the hue becomes. What’s more, to capture the results, all that’s needed is a smart phone camera with a lens adaptor.

Written by Ruth Williams

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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