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An immunoassay is a biochemical test that measures the presence or concentration of a substance in solutions that frequently contain a complex mixture of substances. Analytes in biological liquids such as serum or urine are frequently assayed using immunoassay methods. Such assays are based on the unique ability of an antibody to bind with high specificity to one or a very limited group of molecules. A molecule that binds to an antibody is called an antigen. Immunoassays can be carried out for either member of an antigen/antibody pair. For antigen analytes, an antibody that specifically binds to that antigen can frequently be prepared for use as an analytical reagent. When the analyte is a specific antibody its cognate antigen can be used as the analytical reagent. In either case the specificity of the assay depends on the degree to which the analytical reagent is able to bind to its specific binding partner to the exclusion of all other substances that might be present in the sample to be analyzed. In addition to the need for specificity, a binding partner must be selected that has a sufficiently high affinity for the analyte to permit an accurate measurement. The affinity requirements depend on the particular assay format that is used.

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