Unpacking Protein Analysis

July 20, 2023

What are proteins?

Proteins are essential for life. They are complex molecules that play important roles in cells, tissues, and organs throughout our bodies. They provide structure, act as enzymes and hormones, and help transport molecules from one part of the body to another. Proteins are made up of amino acids and are the building blocks of life!  

Western Blot

A Western blot is a laboratory technique used to detect and identify specific proteins in a sample. The sample could be a small number of cells, tissue, or a liquid like blood.

It involves separating proteins in a sample by size and then transferring them onto a special membrane. The membrane is then incubated with antibodies that are specific to the protein being studied and have tags which produce a signal. The signal is activated when the membrane is exposed to a special chemical that will cause a visual reaction, allowing scientists to observe and identify the proteins of interest. Overall, it is typically a confirmatory test, giving a yes/no answer to if the protein is present.  

Figure 1: Western Blot workflow. (1) separation of proteins by size (2) transfer of proteins from the gel to the membrane. (3) Staining of the proteins on the membrane using antibodies (4) visualization of the proteins created by the antibodies. Image created with BioRender.

A Real-World Example:

Polylactic acid (PLA) is a common material used in medical devices. Scientists wanted to understand how it affects human teeth cells and their ability to form minerals. They used a technique called Western blot to study this. They focused on two proteins, Runx2 and Osterix, which are known to be important for bone development.

Figure 2: Example of Western blot for Runx2 and Osterix. The intensity of the bone protein bands is greater for the treated sample compared to the non-treated one. The figure was created from the principles outlined by: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5431402/

The results of the western blot showed that when PLA was combined with bone cells (SHED), it produced a stronger signal for both Runx2 and Osterix. This means that PLA can help with the formation of minerals in bones. It suggests that PLA could be a great material to use in dental implants to support healthy bone growth.

Analysis of these proteins within the Biohubx common laboratory is performed using UVP ChemStudio Imaging System. Biohubx can perform these tests to these standards. Please contact Dr. Steven Jones (steve@biohubx.com) for further information.