Scientists Blood Protein Rice – Scientists at a Chinese university said Monday they can use rice to make albumin, a protein found in human blood that is often used for treating burns, traumatic shock and liver disease. The method was devised by researchers at Wuhan University in China and colleagues from the National Research Council of Canada and the Center for Functional Genomics at the University at Albany in New York.
When extracted from seeds, it is “physically and chemically equivalent to blood-derived human serum albumin (HSA),” said the research in the US-published Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The findings could lead to a breakthrough in production of HSA, which typically comes from human blood donations. The demand is about 500 tons per year worldwide, and China has faced worrying shortages in the past.
First, they genetically engineered rice seeds to produce high levels of HSA. Then, they worked out a way to purify the protein from the seeds, gathering about 2.75 grams (2.2 pounds) of the rice.
When they tested the protein in rats with liver cirrhosis, a common condition for which the human equivalent is often used, they found it produced similar outcomes to treatment with HSA. “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,” said the study.
The protein is often used in the manufacture of vaccines and drugs and is given to patients with serious burn injuries, hemorrhagic shock and liver disease, the scientists said.