How Clean Is Your BSA?

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Bovine serum albumin (BSA) is a critical component of many biotechnology and biochemistry systems. BSA is used in a variety of applications, including diagnostics, veterinary medical products, vaccine manufacturing, mammalian cell growth for biopharmaceutical production, and topical and ex vivo medical device applications. The impact of BSA on the performance of these systems is often overlooked and is identified as a possible root cause of variability only after extensive testing and elimination of other system components.

There are many different functions of BSA within the spectrum of biopharmaceutical applications. Diagnostic tests for both animal and human health industries use BSA as a protein carrier to stabilize low-abundance high-value proteins (e.g., monoclonal antibodies). BSA is used as an assay standard given the reproducible properties of a pure protein fraction and as a blocking agent to prevent nonspecific interactions with the functional components of the assay. BSA also is used as an inert surface coating to prevent nonspecific interactions on diagnostic devices and used extensively in enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) (1, 2). For example, BSA coating the surface of a solid nanoparticle will improve circulating half-life by preventing opsonization and clearance through the renal system (3, 4). Finally, BSA is also a critical component in defined media formulations for the production of biopharmaceutical compounds. BSA supports the growth of both mammalian and bacterial organisms through the binding and transport of key nutrients, growth factors, and hormones as well as the binding of toxic compounds (e.g., excess iron) (5). BSA plays a role in these applications, and consistent BSA product ensures reproducible diagnostic assay performance and cell growth.

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