The formulation of artificial reference standards for use within the ELISPOT assay

  • Sagida Bibi

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Whether to assess the functionality of equipment or as a determinate for the accuracy of assays, reference standards are essential for the purposes of standardisation and validation. The ELISPOT assay, developed over thirty years ago, has emerged as a leading immunological assay in the development of novel vaccines for the assessment of efficacy. However, with its widespread use, there is a growing demand for a greater level of standardisation across different laboratories. One of the major difficulties in achieving this goal has been the lack of definitive reference standards. This is partly due to the ex vivo nature of the assay, which relies on cells being placed directly into the wells. Thus, the aim of this thesis was to produce an artificial reference standard using liposomes, for use within the assay. Liposomes are spherical bilayer vesicles with an enclosed aqueous compartment and therefore are models for biological membranes. Initial work examined pre-design considerations in order to produce an optimal formulation that would closely mimic the action of the cells ordinarily placed on the assay. Recognition of the structural differences between liposomes and cells led to the formulation of liposomes with increased density. This was achieved by using a synthesised cholesterol analogue. By incorporating this cholesterol analogue in liposomes, increased sedimentation rates were observed within the first few hours. The optimal liposome formulation from these studies was composed of 2-dipalmitoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DPPC), cholesterol (Chol) and brominated cholesterol (Brchol) at a 16:4:12 µMol ratio, based on a significantly higher (p<0.01) sedimentation (as determined by a percentage transmission of 59 ± 5.9 % compared to the control formulation at 29 ± 12 % after four hours). By considering a range of liposome formulations ‘proof of principle’ for using liposomes as ELISPOT reference standards was shown; recombinant IFN? cytokine was successfully entrapped within vesicles of different lipid compositions, which were able to promote spot formation within the ELISPOT assay. Using optimised liposome formulations composed of phosphatidylcholine with or without cholesterol (16 µMol total lipid) further development was undertaken to produce an optimised, scalable protocol for the production of liposomes as reference standards. A linear increase in spot number by the manipulation of cytokine concentration and/or lipid concentrations was not possible, potentially due to the saturation that occurred within the base of wells. Investigations into storage of the formulations demonstrated the feasibility of freezing and lyophilisation with disaccharide cryoprotectants, but also highlighted the need for further protocol optimisation to achieve a robust reference standard upon storage. Finally, the transfer of small-scale production to a medium lab-scale batch (40 mL) demonstrated this was feasible within the laboratory using the optimised protocol.
Date of Award28 Sept 2013
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorYvonne Perrie (Supervisor), Afzal-Ur-Rahman Mohammed (Supervisor) & Eric Lattmann (Supervisor)


  • reference standard
  • ELISPOT assay
  • liposomes
  • IFNy
  • immunological assays

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