Cell-free protein microarrays represent a special form of protein microarray which display proteins made fresh at the time of the experiment, avoiding storage and denaturation. They have been used increasingly in basic and translational research over the past decade to study protein-protein interactions, the pathogen-host relationship, post-translational modifications, and antibody biomarkers of different human diseases. Their role in the first blood-based diagnostic test for early stage breast cancer highlights their value in managing human health. Cell-free protein microarrays will continue to evolve to become widespread tools for research and clinical management. Areas covered: We review the advantages and disadvantages of different cell-free protein arrays, with an emphasis on the methods that have been studied in the last five years. We also discuss the applications of each microarray method. Expert commentary: Given the growing roles and impact of cell-free protein microarrays in research and medicine, we discuss: 1) the current technical and practical limitations of cell-free protein microarrays; 2) the biomarker discovery and verification pipeline using protein microarrays; and 3) how cell-free protein microarrays will advance over the next five years, both in their technology and applications.
Keywords: Cell-free; biomarker; protein array; proteomics; translational research.