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New pathway to cheap insulin
Date:5/26/2010

More than eight million diabetics live in Germany. Diabetes is not restricted to our prosperous society and the highest growth rates often occur in countries with aspiring economies such as in Asia. Worldwide, more than 285 million people suffer from this illness; with 50 million diabetics, India is the country with the most people affected by this disease. In Europe, Germany shows the highest prevalence in the population with twelve percent. In a German-Indo collaboration, researchers from the Helmholtz-Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig, Germany have now developed a new method to cheaply produce insulin for the treatment of diabetes. The group's results have now been published in the open access online research magazine Microbial Cell Factories. With this, all information is freely accessible for everyone and is not subject to patent law.

"As we did last year with an alternative protocol for the development of a hepatitis B vaccine, we again decided to use this way and make our knowledge available for everybody," says Ursula Rinas from the HZI, who chairs the German side of the project. Thus, people can access "insider-information" that makes it possible to cheaply produce medicine which in return can be affordable to people in developing countries.

The researchers wanted to develop a new procedure to increase the yield of an insulin precursor from which the actual insulin can be obtained, and in this way reduce costs. They found the yeast Pichia pastoris and modified the cells so that they produce the building block for insulin while growing on a special medium. The results were highly gratifying: "With our procedure, Pichia pastoris delivers high yields twice as much as known before", says Ursula Rinas. "Already with few cells it is possible to produce a lot of the insulin precursor."

In the early 1980s, insulin was the first recombinant product approved by the FDA for human application. Today, human insu
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Contact: Bastian Dornbach
bastian.dornbach@helmholtz-hzi.de
49-053-161-811-407
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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