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Latex beads, also referred to as latex particles, are micrometer sized polystyrene beads made of polymer chains that form a spherical hydrophobic exterior. The beads bind proteins through passive adsorption and can be functionalized with chemical groups  to increase binding efficiency, for example towards amine groups on proteins. From here, the multivalent nature of antibodies allows them to bind to antigens on multiple latex beads simultaneously, causing the latex beads to agglutinate.

Free PDF guide:  "The Advanced Guide for the use of Magnetic Bead in ChemiLuminiscent  ImmunoAssays (CLIA)" 

Nowadays, many scientific techniques have transitioned into magnetic latex beads to overcome obstacles in physical separation. Similar to traditional latex beads, magnetic latex beads are functionalized  with an active biomolecule that recognizes a specific analyst of interest. The magnetic latex bioconjugates bind to analytes and separate them from the samples in solution via an external magnetic field. Processes that use magnetic latex beads are carried out in a biomagnetic separator, negating the use of a centrifuge or tangential filtration devices.

This post is about choosing the right platform for a given biomarker. If you want detailed information about this topic, download our free ebook The Advanced Guide for the use of Magnetic Beads in Chemiluminescent Immunoassay.:

Practical Considerations of Magnetic Latex Beads

Compared to traditional latex beads, magnetic latex beads have increased ability in heterogeneous immunoassays that require separation steps where unbound antibodies or analytes must be washed away. Compared to latex beads, magnetic latex beads have a stronger tendency to fall out of solution because of their higher density. Thus, it is important that the magnetic bead suspension undergo constant mixing, which can easily be achieved through a standard benchtop mixer, to ensure the beads remain evenly dispersed. Differently to latex beads, a ready to use magnetic bead suspension needs to be resuspended prior to use.

Both latex and magnetic latex beads use the same types of covalent bonds to attach molecules, so there is no need to seek out alternate attachment sites on the protein. The main issue when making a switch from latex beads to magnetic latex beads is the difference in experimental technique. If protocols are already in place, steps should be adjusted to accommodate magnetic separation and washing methods. Overall, magnetic separation processes prove to be faster and more efficient than those that utilize non-magnetic latex particles; washing steps can be performed quickly and efficiently, which helps to improve analytical sensitivity and reduce interference from sample components.

Application of Latex Beads

Latex beads have found numerous uses throughout scientific research, pharmaceuticals, and nanotechnology. Commonly, latex beads are used as a diagnostic tool to antibodies or antigens in immunoassays. Latex beads and magnetic latex beads have been widely employed in commercial lateral flow immunoassays which allow for the detection and quantification of analytes in complex mixtures. Additionally, paired with an appropriate external ready, latex bead technology provides qualitative as well as quantitative results. Latex beads are also frequently used in agglutination assays in diagnostic studies, used to initially confirm the presence of a specific pathogen. Due to their low cost when compared to other techniques, namely those that utilize gold nanoparticles, latex beads may be an optimal choice.

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Published on January 29, 2014 and updated on December 21, 2023.


Lluis M. Martínez | SEPMAG Chief Scientific Officer

Founder of SEPMAG, Lluis holds a PhD in Magnetic Materials by the UAB. He has conducted research at German and Spanish academic institutions. Having worked in companies in Ireland, USA and Spain, he has more than 20 years of experience applying magnetic materials and sensors to industrial products and processes. He has filed several international patents on the field and co-authored more than 20 scientific papers, most of them on the subject of magnetic particle movement.

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