Microscale Thermophoresis – Discovering the Inner Workings of This Powerful Research Tool

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Understanding biomolecules and how they interact is an important piece of the biophysical analysis process necessary to find new drugs, develop new therapies, and understand disease processes. Technology helps to streamline the process and make analysis faster and more efficient. One of the tools that allows researchers to conduct biophysical analysis is microscale thermophoresis (MST). MST makes it possible for researchers to directly measure interactions within a solution to learn more about the compounds in question.

What is Microscale Thermophoresis (MST)?

MST tools are used for both big and small screening projects to identify compounds that may treat or cure a disease process. Benefits include low cost, straightforward detection of false positives, and the ability to integrate biophysical characterization at the earliest stages of the screening process.

How Does Microscale Thermophoresis Work?

Microscale thermophoresis can detect the movement of fluorescent molecules along a tiny temperature gradient. This process makes it possible to determine changes in molecular hydration, charge, or even changes in size. The technique is so sensitive that any change in the molecule yields precise measurements no matter the size of the sample. In addition, despite the sensitivity of the tool, the experimental process is simple and does not require tedious preparation or high-cost instrument maintenance.

What Kind of Molecular Interactions Can MST Measure?

Primarily, MST reveals whether protein samples have separated, or can be separated by ligand binding. MST can also measure the different effects between multiple protein binders of samples. There are several other molecular interactions measurable using microscale thermophoresis, including:

  • Protein
  • RNA
  • DNA
  • Lipids
  • Carbohydrates
  • Small molecule compounds

What Information Can We Gain from Microscale Thermophoresis?

The use of fluorescent molecules is invaluable to understanding biological processes. MST allows microscopic proteins to be visible for evaluation and allows the location of proteins even in vitro. MST also allows the early detection of protein misfolding and unfolding, enabling the more effective study of many different diseases affected by protein malformation.

The Many Benefits of MST to the Scientific Community

Aside from the significant strides taken to improve the understanding of biomolecules, MST offers several other benefits for the scientific community:

  • MST is ideal for basic research applications requiring fast turn-around, inexpensive testing, and flexibility.
  • MST requires just a minuscule sample compared to standard technologies.
  • MST is inexpensive, easy to handle, and flexible.
  • MST has dedicated software that is capable of optimal data acquisition and analysis.
  • MST supplies high-quality results.
  • MST is immobilization free
  • MST technology is highly sensitive.
  • MST allows both intrinsic and label-free setup.

Future Implications

The future of microscale thermophoresis technology is promising. The already low-cost instruments make it possible to use the technology without reservation. MST tools are suitable for basic research and pharmaceutical applications and can run up to 16 samples in 10 minutes.

The continued use of microscale thermophoresis to advance research in drug development, protein-protein interactions, binding affinity, is important. Through MST, researchers can discover important therapies, solve disease puzzles, and improve human health.

Resources:

https://portlandpress.com/biochemist/article/41/2/8/1529/Microscale-thermophoresis-warming-up-to-a-new (see pdf link)

https://cmi.hms.harvard.edu/microscale-thermophoresis

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022286014002750

 

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