November 7, 2011
Genetically-Altered Rice Could Provide Blood For Patients
Scientists in China have genetically modified grains of rice in order to provide a new source for a vital component used to treat burn victims and patients who have suffered severe blood loss, Telegraph Science Correspondent Richard Gray reported on Sunday.
Gray's report, which was also published by the Sydney Morning Herald, suggests that this genetically modified grain, if mass produced, would provide a new source of human serum albumin (HSA), a protein that is a key component in plasma. If successful, the rice could reduce the need for hospitals to obtain the substance through donations, which requires purification before use.
"Human Serum Albumin is the most abundant protein in human blood and performs important functions including carrying hormones and minerals around the body, mopping up harmful toxins from the blood stream and helping to regulate blood pressure," Gray wrote.
The research was also the topic of an AFP report early last week, which noted that the global demand for HSA is approximately 500 tons per year, and that China in particular had faced "worrying shortages" in the past.
According to the news agency, scientists at China's Wuhan University collaborated with colleagues from Canada's National Research Council and the University of Albany's Center for Functional Genomics to genetically alter rice seeds so that they would produce high levels of the protein.
They then managed to successfully purify the substance directly from the seeds, resulting in a yield of approximately 2.75 grams per kilogram of rice.
"Our results suggest that a rice seed bioreactor produces cost-effective recombinant HSA that is safe and can help to satisfy an increasing worldwide demand for human serum albumin," the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said, according to AFP.
"Currently commercial production of HSA is primarily based on collected human plasma, which is limited in supply, but of high clinical demand," lead researcher Dr. Daichang Yang of Wuhan University told Gray. "There is also an increasing public health concern with plasma derived HSA with its potential risk for transmission of blood-derived infectious pathogens such as hepatitis and HIV."
"The use of a rice seed bioreactor could provide an economical and safe approach for the production of non-animal derived compounds," Yang added.
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