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TheRealPacha

Can a Bacterium - with the help of science - be able to produce important proteins and nutrients?

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I once saw a diagram in my science textbook vaguely explaining how advanced genetics can inject a gene for insulin production into the 'plasmid' (not sure how it's spelled) of a bacterium, allowing it to produce insulin and produce offspring with the insulin gene.

Is this real? And if so, how is it implemented in the real world and what problems could pop up with it

Thanks in advance!ūüėĀ

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By introducing the gene for the protein you want into a cell (which could be bacteria, yeast or something else) it will produce that protein. (That is basically how viruses work.)

Good summary here: https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/resources/1959-producing-foreign-proteins-in-bacteria

More here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protein_production

 

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3 hours ago, TheRealPacha said:

I once saw a diagram in my science textbook vaguely explaining how advanced genetics can inject a gene for insulin production into the 'plasmid' (not sure how it's spelled) of a bacterium, allowing it to produce insulin and produce offspring with the insulin gene.

Is this real? And if so, how is it implemented in the real world and what problems could pop up with it

Thanks in advance!ūüėĀ

That is done routinely, actually. A lot of products, not only insulin, but also lots of other compounds are being produced by bacteria. Some of these products are byproducts of bacterial fermentation and metabolism (such as alcohols or amino acids). Here the challenge is often developing (or finding) a strain that is more efficient in the production of these metabolites.

Heterogeneous production of e.g. insulin, has the difficulty that products may not be produced accurately. Some require special folding or processing after production which bacteria do not do as they do not normally produce these proteins. There are ways to address them or one can use eukaryotic cell for production, for example.

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It’s not just limited to proteins either. You can also engineer yeast and bacteria to produce complex chemicals, some requiring several enzymatic steps. For example, I remember a while back there were a couple of papers that did this for the production of codeine and other morphine type compounds. There were problems where some reactions were not compatible with others, so in one paper the authors compartmentalised the enzymatic steps in different organelles yeast, and in the other the authors used two strains of E. coli to complete different halves of the synthesis. 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924617/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26847395/


Chemoenzymatic synthesis is a very big area. In fact the Chemistry Nobel prize in 2018 was awarded to 3 people, one of whom (Frances Arnold) received it for pioneering the use of something called directed evolution. Essentially, her lab looks at enzymes that are able to perform reactions that are difficult to do outside of enzymes. They take the gene for the enzyme that is able to perform a given reaction that they are interested in, and create a library of mutants that are then transformed into whatever organism. The mutants are screened and the most active selected for the next round of mutagenesis, etc. They’ve used it towards greener syntheses of compounds used in, for example, pharmaceuticals and biofuels. 

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