Rapid, simple biomolecule purification from living or lysed cells

University of Oxford researchers have developed a new method that supports the selection and subsequent purification of nucleic acids (RNA, DNA), proteins or drug-like molecules from solutions, cell lysates or within living cells. Typical purification protocols entail applying cellular lysates to columns or mixing with non-physiological solutions. The new approach negates each of these requirements and is therefore rapid, simple and biologically relevant.

Current Practice and Limitations

Purification of biomolecules is a key requirement for a broad range of research, diagnostic and commercial applications. Traditional approaches involve procedures that can be laborious, require expert knowledge and often entail exposing biomolecules to non-physiological conditions. Existing approaches assume cells have to be lysed before biomolecules can be purified. Oxford researchers have challenged these accepted practices using membraneless organelles.

Membraneless Organelles

Biomolecules that form membraneless organelles have been identified and simple methods to reversibly regulate their formation have been determined. The thermodynamic processes that underpin how these structures segregate nucleic acids, proteins and drug-like molecules have been elucidated. Membraneless organelles can then, for example, be sedimented by centrifugation and biomolecules released through reversible organelle dissolution.

All stages of the membraneless organelle workflow can be performed under physiological conditions. Indeed, biomolecule segregation can even be performed within a living cell. Further studies are underway to demonstrate how this rapid, simple and scalable procedure can be used to segregate, extract and purify biomolecules from solutions, cell lysates and within living cells.

Commercial Usage

Competitive advantage resides in the system’s simplicity combined with the segregation of biomolecules that are present within the cell or dissolved in physiological buffers. It is envisioned that this approach would enable biomolecules and their complexes to be purified. Unprecedented control could be exerted as biomolecule segregation and extraction may be tuneable and evolvable via directed mutagenesis. The current system should be viewed as a platform technology that will enable a suite of related products to be realised.

A patent application has been submitted. Oxford University Innovation would like to speak to parties interested in developing this innovative technology.

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