For better or worse, the technology that performs biological measurements often takes center stage when new discoveries are reported.
Although the measurement yields the interesting result, in many cases such a result could not have been produced without the careful sample preparation that took place beforehand. Recognizing this fact, a growing number of scientists are becoming interested in using biomagnetic separation products to perform sensitive measurements.
Biological sample preparation may not be the most glamorous aspect of research, but scientists shouldn’t overlook its importance, says Brett R. Richards, technical account manager at Thermo Scientific. “If you don’t have good sample preparation, the rest of the experiments will suffer.”
With the goal of developing tools for improved biological sample prep, scientists at Thermo Scientific have developed superparamagnetic beads that come prefunctionalized with antibodies and other capture probes, or present chemical functionalities for the customized attachment of antibodies, oligos, proteins, or nucleic acids.
The newest line of magnetic bead products from Thermo Scientific, known as Sera-Mag Magnetic SpeedBeads, run as small as 1 micron in diameter and have two layers of magnetite encapsulated with a polymer, carboxylate-modified shell.
This enables them to respond faster to a magnetic field and gives them a bumpy, cauliflower-like outer surface that provides a greater surface area for attachment of capture probes.
Since they are superparamagnetic and highly charged, the beads have no residual magnetism outside of an applied magnetic field, resulting in less aggregation, which allows for more reproducible recovery and cleaner sample prep, Richards says.
Using magnetic beads for biological sample preparation has certain advantages over traditional techniques such as anionic exchange columns, including ease of scalability and the absence of filters and shear forces, which can cause sample loss and degradation, he adds.
An additional benefit of Thermo’s magnetic bead product line is that separations can be accomplished using a basic rare earth magnetic rack. Researchers interested in scaling up and automating the separations process can take advantage of magnetic particle processor instruments such as the Thermo Scientific KingFisher.
In the future, scientists at Thermo Scientific hope to develop even smaller beads that settle out of solution less quickly and will open the way to new applications in microfluidics and point-of-care technologies, Richards says. They are also working on developing tools for performing cell separations, in conjunction with partner companies.