What Is an ELISA Reader?

Written by bruce smith
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What Is an ELISA Reader?
ELISA plate readers are used by hospitals for research and diagnosis. (cottage hospital image by Chris Bolton from Fotolia.com)

ELISA stands for enzyme linked immunosorbent assay. In short, it is an antibody test or a test for immune response to things attacking the body such as virus, bacteria and allergens. The test is done in an ELISA plate, also known as a 96-well plate or microplate. The ELISA reader reads the plate.

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What an ELISA Reader Does

ELISA readers or micro plate readers do spectrophotometry; they emit light at one wavelength, and measure the amount of light absorbed and reflected by an object such as a protein. A spectrophotometer measures ultraviolet and visible light.

Additionally, ELISA plate readers can also measure fluorescence and luminescence. Chemical dyes fluoresce or emit one colour or wavelength when exposed to light. The amount of reflection, absorption and the colour identify, and measure the amount of a substance.

What Is an ELISA Reader?
An ELISA reader measures and quantitates the colour differences in the 12 wells of the plate. (biologie image by Danielle Bonardelle from Fotolia.com)

Purpose of an ELISA reader

ELISA readers were designed for measuring antibody tests. They worked so well, the machine has been adapted to other purposes. Researchers use them for protein and enzyme assays. They are also used for HIV detection and quantitation of nucleic acids.

What Is an ELISA Reader?
Researchers can use ELISA plate readers for protein assays. (the molecule of tryptophan image by Stanislav Pepeliaev from Fotolia.com)

Advantages of ELISA Reader

To use a spectrophotometer or ELISA plate reader, the molecule must be dissolved in solution. A spectrophotometer requires between 400 micro-litres and four millilitres, depending on the manufacturer and model. An ELISA plate reader needs about two to 100 micro-litres; ELISA plate readers use much less of a sample to get a result.

ELISA plate readers measure more samples in a shorter period of time. A spectrophotometer measures one to six samples at a time. Typically, an ELISA plate measures 96 wells in an equivalent amount of time.

What Is an ELISA Reader?
Spectrophotometers require more sample per measurement. (brightly coloured science test tubes image by Steve Johnson from Fotolia.com)

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