What is lactoferrin?

Lactoferrin is an iron-binding glycoprotein that is isolated from milk and whey. Its strong affinity for iron comes from its unusual structure made up of a single polypeptide chain with two binding sites for iron. Even small quantities of this important host defence protein demonstrate significant biological activity. The widespread benefits of this protein include regulating the immune system, iron absorption regulation, inhibiting the outbreak of infections as well as being an effective antiviral and antimicrobial agent. The high nutritional and biological properties of this protein are attracting interest in the food, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and therapeutic industries.

Uses for lactoferrin:

  • Anti-aging cosmetics
  • Immunomodulation
  • Infant formulas
  • Sports nutrition
  • Antiviral treatments
  • Alzheimer’s treatments
  • Cystic fibrosis treatments

Use of lactoferrin in COVID-19 prevention

With all the benefits that lactoferrin offers, it is no surprise that extensive research is being done on its application in the treatment and prevention of COVID-19. Lactoferrin can directly interfere with the lifecycle of many viruses due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It interacts with cellular surfaces to inhibit viral penetration of host cells making it a great option in the fight against COVID-19.

A study conducted in 2020 by teams at university hospitals in Rome evaluated the role of oral and intranasal administration of lactoferrin in 32 patients with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 and 32 healthy volunteers. The aim was to evaluate the efficiency of lactoferrin in improving these symptoms and eradicating the virus. The study found that all patients demonstrated an improvement in every symptom except fatigue. View the full study here.

Other dairy proteins of interest

Lactoferrin is not the only protein of use to be found in milk and cheese. Whilst often discarded as waste, the below dairy proteins are finding new applications each year across a range of industries. Immunoglobulins, lactoferrin and lactoperoxidase are all purified using cation exchange chromatography, 

  • β-Lactoglobulin
  • α-Lactalbumin
  • Lactoperoxidase
  • Immunoglobulin (IgG)
  • Bovine serum albumin (BSA)
  • Glycomacropeptide

Purifying dairy proteins with ion exchange chromatography

Ion exchange (IEX) chromatography offers an effective method for the purification and separation of proteins and other charged molecules. Currently, high-value dairy proteins are subject to a number of processing steps before being extracted from milk or whey (e.g. separation, pasteurization, homogenization). This extensive pre-treatment to remove fat and caseins can result in a significant loss of protein yield/activity.

IEX chromatography can be used to isolate specific components from bovine milk, and when combined with other conventional fractionation procedures, may enable the isolation of all components from milk and whey derivatives. Using IEX chromatography in tandem with already established purification processes will help increase yield further.

IEX chromatography offers a purification method that requires a single piece of equipment that can be used to isolate different whey proteins when needed. The ability to manufacture several different protein fractions from a single stream of whey provides flexibility to respond quickly to changing market and customer demands. This method is capable of allowing isolation in very mild conditions, a useful feature when purifying milk proteins where biological activities need to be preserved.

Benefits of IEX chromatography in dairy protein purification:
  • minimal denaturation, proteins remain active
  • effective separations
  • fractionation can be made directly from milk or whey without prior treatment
  • good resolution

Purolite resins for dairy applications

Purolite is one of the largest resin producers in the world, and the only globally-active company dedicated solely to R&D in resin technology. We have resins available for a range of applications, including demineralization, decolorization and biocatalysis.

For purification of lactoferrin and lactoperoxidase, we offer two resins, Praesto SP200 and Chromalite MS/C.