A new microsphere technology set to overhaul life-sciences research and development

CSIR spin-off company, ReSynTM Biosciences, will soon put a range of versatile tools on the life-sciences research and development (R&D) market. ReSynTM is a ‘microsphere technology’. A microsphere is a tiny, artificial bead onto which molecules like DNA and proteins can be attached. The technology has been around for a long time, but CSIR researchers have made some drastic improvements to it.

The first microspheres were solid balls that could bind molecules only on its outer surface. ReSyn™ microspheres are not solid; they are made up of many strands, coiled together like a ball of wool so that molecules can bind on the surface of individual strands. In other words, far more biological particles can stick to a ReSyn™ bead than to other beads on the market. Research group leader, Dr Justin Jordaan, says that binding more molecules at one time will allow scientists to work much faster than before.

Drug discovery and disease diagnosis
Such speedy workflow is useful, for example, in fast-tracking the discovery of drugs and specific molecules that are only present during disease. Such molecules are known as biological markers, and the ReSyn™ microspheres that bind them are thus valuable for diagnosis that leads to disease treatment. In diagnostics, for instance, antibodies can be bound to the beads. These antibodies are attracted to specific diseaserelated proteins from the likes of viruses and bacteria. If these disease-causing agents are present in a blood sample, they will bind to the antibodies on the beads and the disease can then be positively diagnosed.
Custom design
Jordaan says that new diagnostic technologies are planned for the future, but for now they will have a range of R&D, off-the-shelf products and custom solutions to target different molecules. “It only takes four days to engineer the beads to meet the desired properties,” he says. Researchers can customise unique features of the beads to maximise the attraction between the beads and the target molecule. This makes for very specific targeting of molecules, which will allow scientists to improve the quality of their research.
A versatile technology
The beads are not just useful in pharmaceutical research and diagnostics. They can also be used to improve many routine lab processes such as DNA and protein purification, for the purpose of any biological research or even forensics. ReSyn™ microsphere technology can also be applied in industrial processes. For example, enzymes can be permanently attached to the beads for speeding up chemical reactions.
Magnetism:  where the magic happens
A major feature of ReSyn™ microspheres is that they are magnetic. “Once the required molecule sticks onto the bead,
the beads can be easily separated from a mixture, such as a blood sample, using only a magnet,” says Dr Dusty Gardiner, a research manager.  While not a new idea, this simple property replaces the usual technique of spinning the solution
at extreme speeds in a process called centrifugation. It takes much more time and effort to purify by centrifugation than it does to use a simple magnet. “Magnetism further adds to a much faster workflow,” says Gardiner. Both researchers say that they expect ReSyn™ products to hit the market within three months. They will initially focus on larger US and UK markets and will expand into Europe later on. The technology should prove highly competitive as it is cheaper,  compatible with existing processes and equipment, easy to use, efficient and it speeds up workflow.

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