This week, the grade 11 Biology class had the opportunity to visualize the immune response system in action by performing an ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) lab.
This analytic biochemistry assay has wide commercial applications but is commonly used to detect the presence of any substances (also known as antigens) capable of inducing an immune response in most vertebrates.
In this mock case, a fictional SAC stomach flu virus had plagued the school. The biology class used the ELISA lab to figure out the possible students who could have brought this virus to school. The antigen (the SAC stomach flu virus) was randomly planted within several students. Students then mimicked interactions that could spread the virus, which included high fiving, shaking hands, and, sharing pencils. Students recorded all of their interactions and used the ELISA test to determine who passed the virus and when it happened. Some students were lucky and remained virus-free! The results were then analyzed to deduce who “patient zero” was.
Using the skills they learned in molecular biology, the students coated a plastic well with their simulated blood samples. If the student had been infected, the virus particles would stick to the plastic. They then used antibodies to detect the virus particles and used an enzymatic reaction to signal whether the viral particles were present or not; this could be seen in the sample by the production of a blue colour. Documenting their results after every interaction, the students tracked the progression of the virus and traced it back to “patient zero.”
Not only have students been able to continually develop their molecular biology techniques, this opportunity gave them a chance to see how researchers track disease outbreaks while also solidifying their understanding of the human immune response system. Further applications have been discussed of the versatility and accuracy of using antibodies for different molecular biology applications. Moreover, students were able to perform a lab test that is effective and still very relevant in the science field today!