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Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), also known as an enzyme immunoassay (EIA), is a biochemical technique used mainly in immunology to detect the presence of an antibody or an antigen in a sample. The ELISA has been used as a diagnostic tool in medicine and plant pathology, as well as a quality control check in various industries. In simple terms, in ELISA, an unknown amount of antigen is affixed to a surface, and then a specific antibody is applied over the surface so that it can bind to the antigen. This antibody is linked to an enzyme, and in the final step a substance is added that the enzyme can convert to some detectable signal, most commonly a colour change in a chemical substrate.

Performing an ELISA involves at least one antibody with specificity for a particular antigen. The sample with an unknown amount of antigen is immobilized on a solid support (usually a polystyrene microtiter plate) either non-specifically (via adsorption to the surface) or specifically (via capture by another antibody specific to the same antigen, in a "sandwich" ELISA). After the antigen is immobilized the detection antibody is added, forming a complex with the antigen. The detection antibody can be covalently linked to an enzyme, or can itself be detected by a secondary antibody which is linked to an enzyme through bioconjugation. Between each step the plate is typically washed with a mild detergent solution to remove any proteins or antibodies that are not specifically bound. After the final wash step the plate is developed by adding an enzymatic substrate to produce a visible signal, which indicates the quantity of antigen in the sample.

Traditional ELISA typically involves chromogenic reporters and substrates which produce some kind of observable color change to indicate the presence of antigen or analyte. Newer ELISA-like techniques utilize fluorogenic, electrochemiluminescent, and real-time PCR reporters to create quantifiable signals. These new reporters can have various advantages including higher sensitivities and multiplexing.[1][2] Technically, newer assays of this type are not strictly ELISAs as they are not "enzyme-linked" but are instead linked to some non-enzymatic reporter. However, given that the general principles in these assays are largely similar, they are often grouped in the same category as ELISAs.


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