OKC lab at forefront of cell researchPublished: Tuesday, June 15, 2021 By: Kathryn McNutt Source: The Journal Record
A new laboratory capable of screening people for immune system disorders is identifying future health problems while there still is time to take preventive action.
“It’s much better to be proactive rather than reactive,” said Dr. Amy Darter, medical director at ImmunoLabOK.
The Oklahoma City lab offers state-of-the-art flow cytometry to give patients and their doctors an in-depth view of the immune system.
“Flow cytometry has been around for some time, but it continues to get better and better,” Darter said. The technique detects and measures physical and chemical characteristics of cells.
ImmunoLabOK – located at the Oklahoma Institute of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, 1810 E. Memorial Rd. – is one of only seven places in the country offering the new diagnostic tool for detecting an immune disorder, weakness or vulnerability.
Doctors can refer patients with high risks of asthma, diabetes, obesity and reoccurring infections for screening, but perfectly healthy people also might want to see what their immune system looks like, Darter said.
The specific technology for the immune system was developed in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
“A single blood draw allows a very comprehensive interrogation of the immune system, looking at thousands of cells one at a time,” said Darter, who is board-certified in both adult and pediatric allergy, asthma and immunology.
In the four months since the lab opened, the screening has “picked up a very small abnormal cell line” that indicated pre-leukemia in five people years before they normally would be diagnosed, she said.
One was her good friend Dr. Debbie Ozment, a dentist and proponent of integrative medicine. Ozment said she is an active 62-year-old who only underwent the screening as a guinea pig for her friend.
“I’m not sick. That’s what’s amazing about it,” she said. “I consider this a gift to find out so early.”
Most people with chronic lymphocytic leukemia don’t find out until they start feeling badly and the disease has progressed, Ozment said.
The test revealed she has 2% cancer cells in her body. Her goal is to ramp up her already healthy lifestyle strategies and retest in six months to see if that has dropped to 1%.
“This gives me motivation to use myself as an experiment,” said Ozment, who has a master’s degree in metabolic and nutritional medicine and hosts a podcast titled Vitality Mindset Made Simple.
“I hope to help a lot of people,” she said. “I feel like the perfect person to have it (leukemia).”
Ozment said the screening is amazing. She likens it to conducting tests on a soil sample before planting rather than waiting to take emergency measures when the plant is dying.
“Think of the number of people that could impact,” she said.
In the flow cytometer, cells pass one at a time through a laser beam, are counted and sorted. Then they are plotted on a graphic and analyzed.
Darter said that can reveal immune deficiencies like a low level of B cells or T cells. B cells have to work to develop antibodies – either naturally or in response to a vaccine – and T cells are their helpers. They need each other, she said.