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Physical degradation of proteins in well-defined fluid flows studied within a four-roll apparatus



In most applications of biotechnology and downstream processing proteins are exposed to fluid stresses in various flow configurations which often lead to the formation of unwanted protein aggregates. In this paper we present physical degradation experiments for proteins under well-defined flow conditions in a four-roll apparatus. The flow field was characterized numerically by computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and experimentally by particle image velocimetry (PIV). The local shear strain rate as well as the local shear and elongation rate was used to characterize the hydrodynamic stress environment acting on the proteins. Lysozyme was used as a model protein and subjected to well-defined fluid stresses in high and low stress environment. By using in situ turbidity measurements during stressing the aggregate formation was monitored directly in the fluid flow. An increase in absorbance at 350 nm was attributed to a higher content of visible particles (>1 µm). In addition to lysozyme, the formation of aggregates was confirmed for two larger proteins (bovine serum albumin and alcohol dehydrogenase). Thus, the presented experimental setup is a helpful tool to monitor flow-induced protein aggregation with high reproducibility. For instance, screening experiments for formulation development of biopharmaceuticals for fill and finish operations can be performed in the lab-scale in a short time-period if the stress distributions in the application are transferred and applied in the four-roll mill. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2011;108: 2914–2922. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.