A team o scientists from Stanford University managed to do just that when they created some very powerful painkillers using bioengineered yeast.
The study, which was published in the journal Science on Thursday, the 13th of August, reveals the method could revolutionize the pain medication business which is now worth billions of dollars. Of course, further experiments and studies need to be conducted to perfect it before making it available on the market.
The researchers basically altered the yeast’s genetic properties so that the cells become coaxed in such a way that they can turn sugars into opioids, more exactly into thebaine and hydrocodone. Hydrocodone is responsible for blocking pain receptors in our brain.
They introduced DNA into the yeast to create the enzymes necessary to turn sugar into opioids. Twenty-three genes from various organisms such as the Iranian poppy, the California poppy, the goldthread herb and the opium poppy engineered the baker’s yeast.
This process lasts three to five days, while opioids from poppies take more than a year to reach their final form
The same process could be employed for manufacturing other plant-based medicine, such as that involved in cancer treatment or chronic illnesses.
“This is important because, with further development, it may provide an alternative supply for these essential medicines and allow greater access for most of the global population that currently has insufficient access to pain medication,” said lead study author, Christina Smoke, from Stanford University.
However, the quantities needed might be a problem, because about 4,400 gallons of fermented yeast are necessary to create a dose of medication.
Even if the experiment was a success, both researchers and other experts have expressed their concern that the new method of creating opioids will be employed by other people as well. This somewhat causes concern regarding opioid abuse. Addiction to painkillers already is a problem among many patients suffering from various diseases.
Nevertheless, it will be long before the method is used on large scale because there are many things to be improved in order for it to become truly effective. Thus, it is likely this process will take many years to be perfected and put to good use.
Image Source: nhv