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What is Protein Therapy and What Role Does Cell Separation Play in it?

Updated on Nov 29, 2023

Proteins are large molecules in the body that play a critical role in virtually everything that happens. Movement, maturation, and other processes are not possible without a lot of proteins. Protein therapy is a form of treatment that involves sending in well-structured proteins to a precise target location to repair or replace damaged ones. This is one of the most widely used treatment methods due to its accuracy and lack of negative side effects.

The largest downside to protein therapy is the mode of administration. Oral, intravenous, and intramuscular induction often result in the therapeutic protein being metabolized before reaching its target destination. The use of a vector, be it a nanocapsule or other cell, is currently the most effective style of transportation.

Uses for Protein Therapy

A person’s genetic code can dictate every aspect of their life down to a molecular level. Gene therapy is a treatment method that involves changing specific points in DNA to decode the potential mistakes of mutation or provide artificial enhancements, but there are many intense caveats that come with genetic tampering. Until scientists can successfully and seamlessly alter the human genome, certain defects can only be solved with the help of protein therapy.

Protein therapy uses a combination of therapeutic and recombinant proteins to strategically solve problems in the body. The immune system is set up to combat most pathogens and diseases, but sometimes we malfunction for different reasons. Certain genetic deficiencies can cause problems and make people more susceptible to illnesses. For example, there are certain genes associated with the proteins in the pancreas which naturally develop insulin. People with mutations in these genes are at a higher risk of getting type 1 diabetes. By inserting recombinant DNA that’s been altered to make insulin back into the body, protein therapy can help to fight the disease.

Proteins are necessary for every transaction that occurs in the body. The level at which they are responsible for things varies, but their inability to function can cause big problems. Protein therapy aims to protect and perpetuate those vital processes by replacing, repairing, and fostering the proteins that carry them out. By producing hormones, enzymes, and other substances, these treatments can drastically improve a patient’s quality of life.

Recombinant Proteins

Recombinant proteins are proteins produced with the help of DNA cloning. A target protein is extracted and recombined with DNA enzymes that will produce more of it and allow experimenters to build a reservoir. Human insulin was the first recombinant protein used for treatment and remains one of the primary examples to this day. Insulin-producing proteins are taken from a mammalian pancreas and merged with DNA, which causes the recombinant molecule to begin producing insulin. The patchwork DNA is cloned and the recombinant proteins are eventually reintroduced into the body.

Therapeutic Proteins

Sometimes researchers know exactly what kind of protein they need, but it’s nowhere to be found in the body. This calls for the artificial laboratory creation of what’s called a therapeutic protein. A therapeutic protein is a protein that’s been engineered in some way, shape, or form for pharmaceutical use. These molecules are highly effective in living organisms because of the variety of services they can provide. They are typically capable of the following five functions:

  • Replacing damaged proteins
  • Increasing the efficiency of an existing pathway
  • Providing a unique function
  • Interfering with an organism or molecule
  • Delivering different proteins or compounds

Therapeutic proteins allow treatment methods for bodily malfunctions to be expanded beyond what natural proteins have to offer.

Scientists can engineer these proteins by altering the existing parts, refolding a protein, or even merging two together. The specific enzymes or structures they add or remove can completely transform the function. The way in which a protein is folded also changes the way it behaves. These modified proteins can be expressed and cultured on mammalian cells to rapidly increase their population.

Current Preparation Methods

The number of different proteins on this planet makes it difficult to create one universally objective cell separation process. Each one could require a unique approach to ensure the most optimal production and purification. When building recombinant or therapeutic proteins, multiple factors must be considered.

Generally, the first step in the preparation process is to obtain the complementary DNA (cDNA). This is single-strand DNA that acts as a coding template for the protein. This cDNA then needs to be cloned and expressed in the ideal cell culture. Depending on the protein, this could be human cells, insect cells, bacteria, yeast, etc.

The recombinant protein is also typically infused with what’s called an affinity tag. An affinity tag is a small peptide chain attached to the end of a strand that aids in the purification of an artificial protein. It helps to keep unwanted substances away, so the final product is as clean as possible. After the recombination process is complete and the proteins are cloned, the affinity tag can be removed to decrease the presence of non-native sequences. This provides the purest protein possible to be reintroduced into the body — which minimizes the possibility of negative side effects.

Protein Extraction

None of this could be possible if it weren’t for the careful extraction of proteins from cell culture. The separation of a protein from other substances is also sometimes referred to as purification. Proteins are purified by rupturing cellular membranes and filtering out dead organelles. This can be done by using mechanical disruption, like shearing or smashing tissue to break it apart. When it comes to intracellular proteins, the protein extraction process may require the use of lysis.

Lysis is the use of different mechanisms to break down a cell that won’t denature sensitive proteins and DNA. Once the membrane is partially or completely lysed, the organelles can be collected using gradient centrifugation. Lyse is often more beneficial to use when isolating for protein therapy because the original proteins must be in the best possible condition for cloning. The less potential damage used for extraction the better.


Another gentle way to isolate substances is with the use of microbubble technology. By binding small lipid-polymer bubbles to target cells through antigens and causing them to float to the top, microbubbles can gently and accurately separate a sample into groups. This process is a quick, easy, and cost-effective way to remove extracellular clutter like red blood cells and tissue cells that may contaminate proteins. Microbubbles can also successfully isolate desired substances they cannot bind to by leaving them behind in the process. This allows for the extraction of unknown cells and proteins, which is useful when studying unknown substances.

Akaedum’s Products

Microbubbles work faster than other traditional methods for cell separation making them a valuable choice for all different types of experiments. If you’re looking for a cheap and simple way to isolate cells or proteins, check out Akadeum’s microbubble products today.

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