Pure Proteins

Could the key to cheaper medication be… gold?!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Many medications, like insulin, are expensive to produce due to costly purification steps. Today’s purification techniques are also slow. How can we speed things up?

Enter Caroline McCue and team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 

They tested a new technique to purify dissolved insulin proteins from a liquid mixture. Researchers used tiny gold particles coated with a material that captures other molecules. When exposed to the coated particles, the proteins stuck to them! The proteins also stuck to each other, like puzzle pieces! BUT – other molecules did not stick to the gold particles! 

This left researchers with purified proteins! The coated particles caused the proteins to accumulate three times faster!

This new purification process uses cheaper materials than traditional methods. It’s also fast! This could make protein drugs like insulin cheaper to produce! 

Turns out all that glitters – and purifies – IS gold!


McCue, C., Girard, H.-L., & Varanasi, K. K. (2023). Enhancing Protein Crystal Nucleation Using In Situ Templating on Bioconjugate-Functionalized Nanoparticles and Machine Learning. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. https://doi.org/10.1021/acsami.2c17208