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Building factories in cells

 — 2 septembre 2020
Yeast cells can be engineered to produce chemical compounds in drugs used for treating Parkinson's disease and other disorders, synthetic biologists report today.

Prashanth Srinivasan and Christina Smolke of Stanford made 34 modifications to the DNA of yeast in order to mimic the plant’s process for creating two medicinal compounds, hyoscyamine and scopolamine.

Cells have been engineered to produce other compounds, but this is « the first time this type of fully integrated whole-cell engineering approach has been done in the field, » says Smolke.

One of Smolke’s visions for synthetic biology is being able to create a manufacturing pipeline that can respond quickly to drug demands. When there is a shortage of a drug, an engineered yeast system could be put in a fermenter and pump out the compound in a few days versus the years it might take to adjust the size of the crop being grown on the other side of the world, harvest the plants and extract the product, says Smolke.

There can still be challenges. To reach commercial production levels, the yeast’s productivity would have to be increased by 100,000-fold. Researchers have been able to use yeast to make artemisinin, a compound typically extracted from wormwood plants for use as an antimalarial drug, but they struggled to scale it economically.

Thèmes : Santé  


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