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Background: Sepsis is characterized by highly heterogeneous immune responses associated with a spectrum of disease severity. Methods that rapidly and sensitively profile these immune responses can potentially personalize immune-adjuvant therapies for sepsis. We hypothesized that the ELLA microfluidic approach to measure cytokine production from the whole blood of septic and critically ill patients would deliver faster, more precise results than the existing optic-driven ELISpot quantification. We tested our hypothesis by measuring ex vivo-stimulated production of TNF and IFNγ in critically ill and septic patients (n = 22), critically ill and non-septic patients (n = 10), and healthy volunteers (n = 10) through both ELLA and ELISpot immunoassays. Blood samples were subjected to one of three stimulants for 4 h or 18 h durations during days 1, 7–10, and 14 of critical illness. Stimulants for lymphocytes included anti-CD3/anti-CD28 and phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA), whereas LPS was used for monocytes. Stimulated TNF and IFNγ concentrations were then associated with 30-day mortality. Results: Both ELISpot and ELLA immunoassays showed substantial agreement in TNF concentrations post 4 h and 18 h LPS stimulation, with concordance correlation coefficients at 0.62 and 0.60, respectively. ELLA had a broad dynamic measurement range and provided accurate TNF and IFNγ readings at both minimal and elevated cytokine concentrations (with mean coefficients of variation between triplicate readings at 2.1 ± 1.4% and 4.9 ± 7.2%, respectively). However, there was no association between the ELLA-determined cytokine concentrations on the first day of critical illness and 30-day mortality rate. In contrast, using the ELISpot for cytokine quantification revealed that non-survivors had reduced baseline TNF levels at 18 h, decreased LPS-induced TNF levels at 18 h, and diminished TNF levels post 4 h/18 h anti-CD3/28 stimulation. Conclusions: Our study affirms the feasibility of obtaining dependable immune phenotyping data within 6 h of blood collection from critically ill patients, both septic and non-septic, using the ELLA immunoassay. Both ELLA and ELISpot can offer valuable insights into prognosis, therapeutic strategies, and the underlying mechanisms of sepsis development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number70
JournalIntensive Care Medicine Experimental
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

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