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Human leucocyte antigen typing: techniques and technology, a critical appraisal


Paul P. J. Dunn, Tissue Typing Laboratory, New Zealand Blood Service, 71 Great South Road, Epsom, Auckland, New Zealand. Tel: 006495235733; Fax: 006495232873; E-mail:


Methods for the identification of Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLA) have changed significantly since this group of polymorphic proteins were first characterized by serological reagents in the 1960s and 1970s. The invention and development of the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) has been key in the progress of methods for HLA genotyping. As the complexity of HLA polymorphism has unravelled so it has exposed the weaknesses in techniques such as PCR – Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP) and Reference Strand Mediated Conformation Analysis (RSCA), which are no longer in use today. Methods which have been considered routine laboratory tools in recent years, such as Sequence-Specific Primer – PCR and Sequencing Based Typing (SBT) are now also threatened with extinction, not only because of the depth of HLA variation but also because of the rapid development of Next Generation Sequencing and technologies which will follow this. This review describes the merits and disadvantages of current technologies available to HLA Typing laboratories, future trends and the problems posed by new alleles.