Aug
16
2008

Yeast modified to manufacture drugs

Bakers Yeast: Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Bakers Yeast: Saccharomyces cerevisiaeCourtesy Hellahulla

To easily manufacture drugs

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have developed a novel way to churn out large quantities of drugs, including antiplaque toothpaste additives, antibiotics, nicotine, and even morphine, using mini biofactories--in yeast.

Take one part baker's yeast

Christina D. Smolke, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Caltech, along with graduate student Kristy Hawkins, genetically modified common baker's yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) so that it contained the genes for several plant enzymes.

Add some plant genetics

The enzymes allow the yeast to produce a chemical called reticuline, which is a precursor for many different classes of benzylisoquinoline alkaloid (BIA) molecules.

One step away from pharmacologically useful molecules

BIA molecules exhibit a wide variety of pharmacological activities, including antispasmodic effects, pain relief, and hair growth acceleration. Other BIAs have shown anticancer, antioxidant, antimalarial, and anti-HIV potential.

Learn more

A paper describing the research, now available online, will be featured as the cover article of the September issue of Nature Chemical Biology: Production of benzylisoquinoline alkaloids in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Source: e! Science News

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