From blood to the lab: the protein albumin is responsible for many vital processes in the human body. In nature it only appears as a solution when dissolved in water. Chemists at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) have developed a method of producing various albumin-based gels. Their findings may one day help to develop innovative drug carrier systems that more easily reach the bloodstream. The study conducted by the researchers in Halle was recently featured on the cover of the international Journal "Biomaterials Science" published by the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Albumin is a protein that is found in large quantities in the blood of all mammals. Human blood contains up to 60 grams per litre. "Albumin is responsible for many important processes in the body. It can penetrate cell membranes and is thus able to transport essential substances into the cells.
It also helps to detoxify cells," says Professor Dariush Hinderberger, a chemist at MLU. He has been investigating albumin for more than ten years, studying the protein’s structure, dynamics and transport properties. Today it is already being used by the pharmaceutical industry to produce vaccines and medicines - however not in gel form.
"Until now albumin gels have been a somewhat annoying by-product of normal lab work," says Hinderberger. However, in the future they could be used to produce so-called drug-delivery implants. These would be injected once into the patient and would then settle in the body.
The carrier would then slowly be broken down by the body and the desired substance would be released over a longer period of time. This could save patients from having to undergo repeated injections. "But in order to see whether potential albumin-based drug carrier systems can be developed, it is first necessary to understand how and why the gels form," says Hinderberger, summarising the idea behind his new study.
In response, the chemists at MLU investigated various albumin solutions. "We wanted to find out what exactly happens to the protein particles and their structure when we modify certain properties," says Hinderberger. First the researchers tested how the solution’s pH value affects gel formation. Then they heated up the liquid and analysed which changes occurred and at what stage.
With the aid of infrared spectroscopy the group is now able to demonstrate how the structure of albumin changes when exposed to heat. The protein tangle opens up allowing it to more easily clump together with other substances to produce the gel. Based on these findings the research group was able to produce a different, much softer, gel.
They did this by slowing down the gel formation process, lowering the temperature and choosing a solution with a relatively neutral pH value. "Under these conditions there was little change to the structure of the individual albumin molecules from which the other basic mechanical properties of the gel stem," explains Hinderberger.
Finally, the researchers pursued the question of whether albumin gels are principally suited as drug carriers. In initial investigations they were able to show that, for instance, fatty acids bind well to the gel. However, follow-up studies will be needed to find out whether the substances are also suitable for pharmaceutical agents in the human body.
About the publication:
S. Arabi et al. (2018) "Serum Albumin Hydrogels in Broad pH and Temperature Ranges: Characterization of Their Self-Assembled Structures, Nanoscopic and Macroscopic Properties". Biomaterials Science, doi: 10.1039/C7BM00820A
Tom Leonhardt | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
OHIO professor Hla develops robust molecular propeller for unidirectional rotations
22.08.2019 | Ohio University
In cystic fibrosis, lungs feed deadly bacteria
22.08.2019 | Columbia University Irving Medical Center
Theoretical physicists at Trinity College Dublin are among an international collaboration that has built the world's smallest engine - which, as a single calcium ion, is approximately ten billion times smaller than a car engine.
Work performed by Professor John Goold's QuSys group in Trinity's School of Physics describes the science behind this tiny motor.
Together with the University of Innsbruck, the ETH Zurich and Interactive Fully Electrical Vehicles SRL, Infineon Austria is researching specific questions on the commercial use of quantum computers. With new innovations in design and manufacturing, the partners from universities and industry want to develop affordable components for quantum computers.
Ion traps have proven to be a very successful technology for the control and manipulation of quantum particles. Today, they form the heart of the first...
Experimental progress towards engineering quantized gauge fields coupled to ultracold matter promises a versatile platform to tackle problems ranging from condensed-matter to high-energy physics
The interaction between fields and matter is a recurring theme throughout physics. Classical cases such as the trajectories of one celestial body moving in the...
Soft robots have a distinct advantage over their rigid forebears: they can adapt to complex environments, handle fragile objects and interact safely with humans. Made from silicone, rubber or other stretchable polymers, they are ideal for use in rehabilitation exoskeletons and robotic clothing. Soft bio-inspired robots could one day be deployed to explore remote or dangerous environments.
Most soft robots are actuated by rigid, noisy pumps that push fluids into the machines' moving parts. Because they are connected to these bulky pumps by tubes,...
Researchers at TU Graz are working together with European partners on new possibilities of measuring vehicle emissions.
Today, air pollution is one of the biggest challenges facing European cities. As part of the Horizon 2020 research project CARES (City Air Remote Emission...
16.08.2019 | Event News
14.08.2019 | Event News
12.08.2019 | Event News
22.08.2019 | Life Sciences
22.08.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
22.08.2019 | Physics and Astronomy