In recent research, published in the periodical “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences” reveals that production of Cough Medicine from Bioengineered Yeast is possible.
The only source for production of cough medicine from bioengineered Yeast is from noscapine (a benzylisoquinoline alkaloid), a cough medicine with potential anti-cancer properties, is opium poppies (a flowering plant).
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Bioengineers from the Stanford University have figured out a way to make noscapine in brewer’s yeast.
In the study, researchers have inserted 25 foreign genes into the one-celled fungus to turn the fungus into an efficient factory for producing the cough medicine.
Many of the inserted genes came from the poppy plant, but several came from other plants and even from rats. All those genes were recipes for enzymes and protein machines that work together to build complex substances from simple starting materials.
Promise as a Cancer Drug
Noscapine’s cough-suppressing capability was actually discovered in 1930. The medicine has been widely used since the 1960s as a cough medicine throughout in Asia, South America, and Europe, as well as in Canada, South Africa, and Australia.
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Several preclinical trials indicate the potential for noscapine as a cancer drug with less toxicity to healthy cells of the body than currently available chemotherapies.
But the only viable source of noscapine is opium poppies. Many tons of noscapine are extracted annually from the poppies plant, which takes a full year to mature.
While noscapine itself is harmless, the poppies’ illegal potential requires costly controls and restrictive regulations. The plants can be legally grown only in a concentrated geographical area.
Half of all poppies produced for noscapine are in Australia, and the rest are mostly in India, Turkey, France, and Hungary, making global noscapine output subject to local environmental issues and to nutrient conditions and varying soil.
In addition, naturally occurring noscapine must be separated from numerous molecular companions, narcotic and otherwise, that don’t occur in yeast.
Every enzyme catalyzes has its own limited set of chemical reactions. So, the synthesis of complex chemicals requires a whole collection line of different enzymes working in concert with one another, ideally with each enzyme in the production chain generating enough of its given intermediate product to keep the next one busy.
Enzymes need energy supplies and some of them require the assistance of additional molecules that abound in the organism they come from, but not necessarily in a yeast cell.
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