Biomagnetic separations are expanding into nontraditional fields including neurology and proteomics as new disciplines discover the availability of gentle ways to separate cells and even classes of cells. It seems that many people who have never used magnetic separation are now considering this technology. To further boost utility, manufacturers are developing new ways to maximize biomagnetic separations’ potential.
As Sandrine Godichaud, product manager, Ademtech (www.ademtech.com), points out, “Magnetic particles are a powerful and versatile diagnostic tool and are particularly indicated for use in a number of clinical research applications such as microbiology, immunology, proteomics, molecular biology, drug discovery, and cancer research.
“Magnetic nanoparticles provide interesting perspectives for realizing novel diagnostic sensors because they allow the detection of magnetic particles specifically bound to the biological target at low concentration. The nature of the magnetic nanoparticles plays a crucial role in developing a sensitive and specific magnetic sensor.” With such benefits, it’s no wonder companies are expanding their uses.
Automation is entering the field of biomagnetic particle separations. “A lot of people have requirements for sample prep upfront, and biomagnetic separations are quite easy to automate,” notes Rick Galloway, director of particle technology at Seradyn (www.thermo.com/seradyn), a subsidiary of Thermo Fisher. Likewise, “new application fields are exploding,” he says.
Proteomics is an intense area of research as scientists drill deeper and deeper to identify proteins or groups of proteins that indicate a disease state or disease predisposition. “Some of these proteins are present in extremely small quantities,” Galloway notes. So, considering that human blood contains hundreds of thousands of proteins, mass spectrometry—the traditional quantification method—is impractical. Instead, by applying biomagnetic separation upstream, mass spec analysis is improved by allowing it to focus on the proteins of interest.”
Nonspecific binding is a universal problem for biomagnetic separations, Galloway says, and Thermo Fisher has next-stage products in development to minimize nonspecific binding. Thermo’s strategy involves the particle itself.
Rather than making a coated particle that binds to a specific target and then adding a compound to block nonspecific binding, we’re doing the reverse—making a blocked particle and then making it target specific,” he remarks.
ThermoFisher is also developing surface coatings specific to various classes of targets rather than to specific targets themselves. For example, Galloway says, the particle coating may bind all phosphopeptides in the solution, which would benefit sample prep for mass spec.