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AIDS Vaccine Development


A group of researchers including Nadeem Sheikh at the Washington National Primate Research Center are currently performing in depth research into various aspects of human biology, specializing in the development and assessment of AIDS vaccine efficacy.

In the study of AIDS, it is important to understand the impact of viral infection, namely the loss of CD4+ helper T cells which is an indicator of the onset of AIDS. In their research, the group determines the absolute number of circulating helper T cells in blood by a two part process: 1) hematology analysis, which measures hemoglobin levels, erythrocyte and white blood cell numbers, and 2) flow-cytometry, which identifies specific subsets of white blood cells.

Figure 1: In figure 1A, the two-panel graph shows the long-term loss of circulating CD3/4+ cells in unimmunized individuals (naïve), whereas immunized subjects show initial loss and then recovery of helper T cells. The researchers wanted to know whether the initial loss of cells in the immunized subjects was as great and rapid as observed with the naïve individuals and therefore used Origin's statistical features (Fig. 5) to assess the difference between the two groups (Fig. 1B).

How Origin Is Used

Origin is used to collate, organize, statistically analyze and visually display a wide variety of data sets.

Data parameters numbered in the hundreds are generated for each test subject for every time point assayed. The data generated are disparate and diverse and include such things as cell immunophenotyping, clinical parameters, virus loads, and basic body and weight measurements.

The data is collected on a weekly and sometimes daily basis and is organized into discrete sets or groups using Project Explorer (Fig. 2).

Figure 2: Origin's Project Explorer Window

When plotting, Nadeem finds the Plot Setup dialog (Fig. 3) extremely useful. The three-pane dialog allows him to add new data sets to his plots, rescale the XY axis, change plot ranges, as well as merge data from multiple worksheets into one plot.

Figure 3: Origin's Plot Setup Dialog

For analyzing the data, Origin's linear and polynomial regression options, two population t-test, and area under curve features are used (Fig 4.).

Figure 4: Origin's Two Sample t-Test, Polynomial Fit, and Linear Fit Tools

Finally, Nadeem relies on Origin's high-quality graphical output and the ability to easily transport that output into commonly used graphics packages (e.g. Microsoft® PowerPoint). The Export Page feature, which allows plots to be exported in a wide variety of graphical file formats, is a particularly useful feature, especially since it includes the option of saving graphs in PDF form (Fig. 5).

Figure 5: Origin's PDF Export Options Dialog


Nadeem Sheikh is an immunologist working on AIDS vaccine development at the Washington National Primate Research Center, University of Washington.


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