U.S. scientists say they’ve developed technology to speed up the accurate sorting of proteins — work that may aid in disease detection and treatment.
Separating proteins from complex biological fluids such as blood is becoming increasingly important for understanding diseases and developing new treatments. The molecular sieve developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology engineers reportedly is more precise than conventional methods and has the potential to be much faster.
The scientists say the key to their molecular sieve, which is made using microfabrication technology, is the uniform size of the nanopores through which proteins are separated from biological fluids. Millions of pores can be spread across a microchip the size of a thumbnail.
The researchers say their sieve makes it possible to screen proteins by specific size and shape. In contrast, the current technique used for separating proteins — gel electrophoresis — is time-consuming and less predictable. Pore sizes in the gels vary, and the process itself is not well understood by scientists.
The study has been described in recent issues of Physical Review Letters, the Virtual Journal of Biological Physical Research and the Virtual Journal of Nanoscale Science and Technology.