Best of 2015 // #91: New Pain Relief

Best of 2015

Hospital patients in need of quality pain relievers may soon be using manufacture opioids created by sugar-eating yeast, much like what Bakers and Brewers use.

READ MORE // The Nose Knows

Back in August, Christina Smolke, a synthetic biologist working at Stanford announced her team had successfully genetically modified bakers yeast – one strain converting glucose into Hydrocodone and another glucose into Thebaine.  Other groups did similar conversations later in the year, but Smolke’s team was first to use s single strain to complete the entire conversion.

In order to get the 20 enzymes to complete the conversion of glucose to painkiller,

the team spliced in genes from plants, bacteria and even rats.

Yeast into Opiods

The new process could lead to cheaper, more effective and less addictive pharmaceutical drugs but also raises concerns over home-grown opioids. Smolke’s teams went so far as to create such opioids with an over the counter brewing kit, but failed.

“When you home-brew, you grow yeast populations very differently than in a lab or for commercial production.”

For the new process to be accepted and commercially viable, engineered yeast would need to convert more effectively, efficiently and optimize its fermentation time.

There’s 99 more stories from 2015.  Check out the Best of 2015 series here

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