Washington: A research team has found a way to stabilize hemoglobin, the oxygen carrier protein in the blood, a discovery that could lead to the development of stable vaccines and affordable artificial blood substitutes.
The new approach by UConn research team involves wrapping the polymer poly(acrylic acid) around hemoglobin, protecting it from the intense heat used in sterilization and allowing it to maintain its biological function and structural integrity.
In addition to having potential applications in the stabilization of vaccines and development of inexpensive artificial blood, the stabilizing polymer also allows vaccines and other biomedical products to be stored for longer periods without refrigeration. It could also have applications in biomaterials, biosensors, and biofuels.
"Protein stability is a major issue in biotechnology," says Challa V. Kumar , UConn professor of chemistry and biochemistry and the primary investigator on the project. "What we've done is taken this protein molecule and wrapped it up in a polymer chain in order to stabilize it. In thermodynamics terms, we have restricted the entropy of the denatured state of the protein and stabilized it beyond our expectations."
"The system also exhibits a high degree of reversibility. The protein can be denatured and renatured many, many times. This is the very first example of its kind in the literature of all protein science. No one has ever been able to achieve this kind of stability for proteins."
As part of its research, the team chose to examine the feasibility of using hemoglobin as an artificial blood substitute. Hemoglobin, when extracted from blood, breaks down and is toxic in its pure form.
Since hemoglobin is the critical oxygen carrier protein in blood, Kumar and his team are looking at ways of stabilizing hemoglobin in its natural form so that it retains its activity and stays harmless when administered as a transfusion agent. This could lead to a new substitute for human blood, which is frequently in short supply. Blood shortages are expected to get worse in coming years, as more and more people in the world are likely to need blood transfusions, Kumar said.