Going Native with Microfluidics
Microfluidics technology has room for improvement, but can undoubtedly impact protein analysis.
Andrew Lynn | | Opinion
When it comes to assessing the key characteristics of complex protein-based biotherapeutics, one of the main challenges is analyzing in native conditions. It is important to ensure that the protein is in native or near-native conditions, in solution, with relevant excipients, and that it remains this way throughout the analysis. You also need to ensure that only the protein portion is read, but when you have a complex solution with excipients and additives present, these can interfere with the read.
But we should also acknowledge that proteins don’t always function alone – the interactions of a protein can be instrumental. We need to consider proteins not as isolated entities, but as part of rich, complex networks that ultimately drive biological systems.
In my view, techniques that rely on surface interactions or denaturation just can’t give us a true picture of the protein, but in my microfluidics technology can. At the microfluidic scale turbulence can be readily avoided and so fluid behaviour is more predictable than microfluidic flow. This in turn implies improved reliability and reproducibility of experiments. Importantly, with well-defined flow it is possible to perform experiments in solution instead of surface-bound. Testing in solution is of course relevant for basic metrics like size, but it becomes even more vital as research shifts to looking at interactions. Often the interactions of a protein with other molecules is key, so being able to observe these without compromise or risk of artefacts is crucial.
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