Broman K, Speed T, Tigges M (1998) Estimation of antigen-responsive T cell frequencies in PBMC from human subjects. Statistical Science 13:4-8.

We describe a consulting project in which the statisticians found that they needed to develop a new method of analysis in order to reach valid conclusions about the effect of a herpes vaccine on the immune systems of human subjects. This method estimates the frequency of blood cells responding to a viral antigen at a single, carefully chosen dilution. The traditional analysis of such data uses a cut-off to separate experimental sites ("wells") which contain no responding cells from wells which contain at least one responding cell, whereas our method uses the scintillation count to estimate the actual number of responding cells for each well. We describe the experiment in some detail, as we found that one of the major challenges facing the statisticians was the need to understand the biology in enough detail to provide a relevant model.

[pdf (556k)]