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What is Immunophenotyping?

Immunophenotyping is a laboratory process that identifies cells based on the types of markers or antigens present on their surface. This technique is crucial in diagnosing diseases, particularly in classifying blood cancers. By using specific antibodies that bind to cell markers, it paints a detailed picture of cell populations in the body. Intrigued by how this impacts treatment strategies? Keep reading to uncover the significance.
Traci Behringer
Traci Behringer

Immunophenotyping refers to one way a doctor can look at the protein that the human body's cells express. Normally, this procedure is performed during laboratory diagnostics and basic science research. For example, doctors can use this technique to diagnose leukemia in a patient. Although the human body has more than 300 clusters of differentiation, immunophenotyping is useful for testing white blood cells.

A cluster of differentiation (CD) is a protocol doctors use to investigate cell surface molecules on the human body's white blood cells. A CD's molecules function in a variety of ways; usually, one acts as a receptor or a ligand, which is what activates a receptor, but this isn't always the case. Other CD molecules might function as cell adhesion, which binds one cell to a surface.

A diagram of the effects of leukemia. Immunophenotyping can be used to diagnose leukemia and other diseases involving white blood cells.
A diagram of the effects of leukemia. Immunophenotyping can be used to diagnose leukemia and other diseases involving white blood cells.

Specifically, immunophenotyping involves labeling human white blood cells with certain antibodies adjacent to the surface protein, which is located on the cell's membrane. Depending on the antibodies that a doctor places onto the surface, this procedure can accurately identify which cells are leukemic. The labeled cells are then placed into a flow cytometer, an instrument that can analyze thousands of cells a second. Besides cells, doctors can perform this procedure on spinal fluid and bone marrow in just a few short hours.

Mononucleosis  -- an infectious disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus -- is sometimes called the kissing disease because it can be spread by saliva.
Mononucleosis -- an infectious disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus -- is sometimes called the kissing disease because it can be spread by saliva.

Immunophenotyping can diagnose diseases in which there is some type problem with the human white blood cells. Perhaps the most common of these illnesses is leukemia, a cancerous disease in which the bone marrow supplies the body with an unusually high amount of white blood cells. Arganulocytosis is another disease caused by the destruction of neutrophil granulocytes, the most abundant kind of white blood cell.

Glandular fever, which is difficult to diagnose via immunophenotyping, may cause headaches.
Glandular fever, which is difficult to diagnose via immunophenotyping, may cause headaches.

Leukopenia is another disease similar to arganulocytosis, but it is less severe. Like its counterpart, it occurs when the white blood cell count drops below 5,000 per cubic milliliter. Leukopenia, however, is normally caused by an allergic reaction to a drug or chemical rather than direct destruction.

Finally, infectious mononucleosis is another disease characterized by the presence of abnormally formed lymphocytes in the bloodstream. It is a relatively contagious disease, and many people believe that kissing is a viable method of transmission, so it has been dubbed "the kissing disease." Also known as glandular fever, this disease is somewhat difficult to diagnose via immunophenotyping. Glandular fever incubates itself between four days and four weeks, and the patient might feel any number of symptoms. This includes a general feeling of weakness, a loss of appetite, swollen lymph nodes, a sore throat, a headache and a fever.

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    • A diagram of the effects of leukemia. Immunophenotyping can be used to diagnose leukemia and other diseases involving white blood cells.
      By: Alila
      A diagram of the effects of leukemia. Immunophenotyping can be used to diagnose leukemia and other diseases involving white blood cells.
    • Mononucleosis  -- an infectious disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus -- is sometimes called the kissing disease because it can be spread by saliva.
      By: Forgiss
      Mononucleosis -- an infectious disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus -- is sometimes called the kissing disease because it can be spread by saliva.
    • Glandular fever, which is difficult to diagnose via immunophenotyping, may cause headaches.
      By: mast3r
      Glandular fever, which is difficult to diagnose via immunophenotyping, may cause headaches.
    • Immunophenotyping is a type of testing that is useful for diagnosing issues with the white blood cells.
      By: spflaum
      Immunophenotyping is a type of testing that is useful for diagnosing issues with the white blood cells.
    • Bone marrow transplants are often done to stimulate the healthy proliferation of white blood cells.
      By: apple1
      Bone marrow transplants are often done to stimulate the healthy proliferation of white blood cells.
    • Leukopenia symptoms may include fatigue and weakness.
      By: KBF MEDIA
      Leukopenia symptoms may include fatigue and weakness.
    • Symptoms of glandular fever may include a sore throat.
      By: oneblink1
      Symptoms of glandular fever may include a sore throat.