Pharmaceutical companies could substantially reduce the expense of costly treatments for cancer and other diseases produced from mammalian or bacterial cells by growing these human therapeutic proteins in algaerapidly growing aquatic plant cells that have recently gained attention for their ability to produce biofuels.
That's the conclusion of a study, published online this week in Plant Biotechnology Journal, which sought to determine whether seven diverse human therapeutic proteins could be produced in Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, a green alga used widely in biology laboratories as a genetic model organism, much like the fruit fly Drosophila and the bacterium E. coli.
"What surprised us was that of the seven genes chosen, four expressed proteins at levels sufficient for commercial production," said Stephen Mayfield, a professor of biology at the University of California, San Diego who headed the study, which involved scientists at The Scripps Research Institute, San Diego biofuel company Sapphire Energy and ProtElix, a protein engineering company in Hayward, CA.
The scientists reported in their paper that all of the algal-produced proteins in their study showed biological activity comparable to the same proteins produced by traditional commercial techniques. And because algae cells can be grown cheaply and quickly, doubling in number every 12 hours, they noted that algae could be superior to current biological systems for the production of many human therapeutic proteins.
"Currently, human therapeutic proteins are primarily produced from either bacteria or mammalian cell culture," they said. "Complex mammalian proteins and monoclonal antibodies are primarily produced by the culture of transgeneic mammalian cells, while simpler proteins are generally produced by E. coli."
"Due to high capital and media costs, and the inherent complexity of mammalian cell culture, proteins produced by mammalian cell culture
|Contact: Kim McDonald|
University of California - San Diego