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Medicine Biotech Science

Human Blood Protein (HSA) From GMO Rice 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the tasty-and-lifesaving dept.
eldavojohn writes "Wuhan University researchers working with the National Research Council of Canada and the Center for Functional Genomics at the University at Albany announced that they have genetically modified rice to produce a medically useful protein chemically identical to human serum albumin. This protein is used to treat burns, traumatic shock and liver disease at a global demand rate of 500 tons each year. Normally, this would be extracted from blood donations, but now you can just grow rice and extract it at a rate of 2.75 grams of protein per kilogram of rice. After testing on rats with liver cirrhosis, the same response was shown as the protein from blood. This is important for China after a spike in demand and lack of supply lead to fake albumin medicine flowing through Chinese hospitals. Worried about these GMO crops cross-pollinating regular crops? The researchers referred to a study indicating 'a very low frequency (0.04-0.80%) of pollen-mediated gene flow between genetically modified (GM) rice and adjacent non-GM plants.' Nature has a slightly more detailed article with a reference to the peer review publication."
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Human Blood Protein (HSA) From GMO Rice

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  • It only takes one, right? What exactly is this supposed to suggest? That we shouldn't worry about it or that we should? It seems like math tells me that gene flow will occur with a near certitude.

    • But is it really a problem?
      • by biodata (1981610)
        Do you really want your rice to contain human blood protein without your knowledge? Or anti-cancer drugs, or viagra or whatever else shit someone decided they could make a fast buck from? Once people start putting this stuff into crops, it is only a matter of time before we start eating it. transfer rates of 0.8% sound small until you remember how many plants there are in a field.
    • by neoshroom (324937)

      It only takes one, right? What exactly is this supposed to suggest?

      In the future, we will all be vampires.

      • Twilight fangirls here I come!

        I'll just show up to a first screening. They can't all be fat, right?

    • HSA flavor Rice Krispies coming to a store near you!

      Seriously it's not whether or not they cross breed but what the stability of the cross breed is. Usually these crosses are not competitive.

    • by HTH NE1 (675604)

      Couldn't they just include a dummy extra chromosome that does nothing but make the GM variety incompatible with reproducing with the natural crop, or some other genetic incompatibility, preventing cross pollination entirely? Or require they do so by law for any crop grown outside of a sealed laboratory? This isn't rocket science or brain surgery; it's genetic engineering!

      • Couldn't they just include a dummy extra chromosome that does nothing but make the GM variety incompatible with reproducing with the natural crop, or some other genetic incompatibility, preventing cross pollination entirely

        Certainly. Except for the little detail that such an extra chromosome might well make it incompatible with living and the annoying little fact that even if the GMO was viable, it could drop the chromosome, no problem.

        Most biological kill switches tend to need some genetic WD-40 from time to time.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        plants are EXTREMELY tolerant of chromosomal mismatches. There has not been any method proposed that would limit the ability of this gene to enter into other species, providing that there is an evolutionary advantage (usually just meaning that it doesn't hurt or slow down the organism).

        Considering that virus, bacteria and cross pollenation are all viable methods of gene transfer in plants, it will happen with certitude.

        it should be easy to control the spread though by not reseeding nearby crops.

    • it says "adjacent" non-gm plants. Meaning that, even if you put it right next to regular rice it still has a very low chance of cross polination. So if you don't put it next to rice you don't have the problem. This doesn't even factor in the chance that the cross pollination actually leads to anything bad... which is almost certainly even lower.
      • "non-gm plants" is not rice exclusive meaning any crop nearby has a .04-.8% chance of acquiring genes from the rice which make it almost certain that the genes will flow to another crop considering the scale of production required to make this gm-rice useful to hospitals. They would have to isolate this rice in order to ensure that the genetic modification didn't flow to another crop. Unless of course we don't care if that happens but that would require lots of trials to determine.
    • by Hentes (2461350)

      True, I wonder why they don't make GMO sterile, it wouldn't be that hard.

      • by Lehk228 (705449)
        they often do, but things like that are not 100%, especially since so many crops are grown for their seeds or fruiting body, and so you cannot just scrape out all the reproductive code
    • It's supposed to suggest that when the Vampire Apocalypse happens, it's okay because we can all just eat rice.

  • And, conveniently, the company selling the bioengineered rice can then sue the non-GM neighbor!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Do they take us for complete idiots? "Very low probabilities of pollen-mediated genes" means nothing when the GMO crops are grown on large areas -- the "low probabilities" will turn to very large physical rates quickly, and we'll be polluting the gene pool with artificial junk,developed mostly by trial and error and guesswork, without consideration for the long and very long term consequences.

    "Low rates" of industrial pollution nearly poisoned the environment in many industrialized countries and have requi

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Do they take us for complete idiots?

      Yes, yes they do. And why shouldn't they? Blatant lies have been very successful politically.

  • I know this is probably a ridiculous question, but... with this rice, what are the chances of a rice-specific bacteria suddenly developing a taste for human blood proteins?

    (Sorry... I just shelled out candy to a couple of neighbourhood zombies, which got me to thinking about disaster scenarios.)

  • I hope they got them into a rehab program too. Who the hell was giving these little bastards booze? They can't possibly be opening the bottles themselves.

    • One of my friends works with tobacco addicted mice. They pump the smoke through the ventilation system for them.

      Before she told me that I had images in my head of a mouse puffing on a cigarette.

      • by Vegeta99 (219501)

        They don't need to puff. My buddy has a bulldog that is downright vicious if you light a cigarette near him and refuse to blow a little smoke in his face. Why? When my buddy was at work during the day, the bulldog would eat butts out of the ashtray, and this went on for some time before anyone figured it out. Goofy friggin' dog, that's for sure.

  • Sorry, but you know somebody was going to say it.

  • My brain is fried and beer-addled, so I can't even begin to figure out how much rice we'd need to match the annual demand for this protein, but I can tell that it's a LOT.

    As a supplement to existing sources (blood donation) this might be marginally useful. When the yield increases about tenfold, I'll be more excited.

    Until then, it seems like you could save a lot more lives by just giving starving people ordinary rice. It would cost less, too.

    • My brain is fried and beer-addled, so I can't even begin to figure out how much rice we'd need to match the annual demand for this protein, but I can tell that it's a LOT.

      182,000 tons, give or take a few.

      For reference, the USA, which is hardly a major player in the world's rice production, grows 6,000,000 or so tons per year.

      The 182,000 tons would represent 0.05% of worldwide rice production....

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If this method of production turns out to be cost-effective, I'd think that demand could go way, way up from 500 tons/year.

        Albumin isn't just used in burns/liver disease, it's actually a very powerful tool for fluid resuscitation. When you give someone normal saline (or any other crystalloid fluid), most of the fluid you administer ends up leaving the vasculature (where it is most useful, as circulating fluid) and distributing rather uselessly to the intracellular and interstitial spaces of the body. Coll

  • 500 tons = 453 592.37 kilograms 1 kilogram rice = 2.75 grams proteins (0.00275 kilograms) That means we will need 164,942,680 kilograms (363,636,364 pounds) of this rice to support the current need. With these odds 0.80% worst case is a bit scary... I do find it cool that they've been able to do this but the extraction ratio will need to be more efficient and, dare I say, safer before it becomes useful.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      you do realize the next best alternative is EXTRACTING FROM BLOOD?

      • by neoshroom (324937)
        Human serum albumin is the most abundant protein in human blood plasma. The reference range for albumin concentrations in blood is 3.4 to 5.4 g/dL.

        So...

        500 tons = 453 592.37 kilograms
        1 L blood = 44 grams proteins (0.044 kilograms)
        That means we will need 10,308,918 liters (2,723,328 gallons) of blood to support the current need.
        A blood donation typically takes a pint of blood.
        Thus 21,786,624 donations are needed to make this amount of human serum albumin.
        Traditional white rice farmers realize a y
        • by neoshroom (324937)
          Darn, going too fast with the math and divided the kilograms instead of pounds.

          We'd need about 72,727 acre's of rice to support the current need.
          The area of land needed would be about 11% of Rhode Island (668,800 acres total), assuming Rhode Island could remotely support rice farming.
      • by belg4mit (152620)

        Yeah, about an order of magnitude less (~11 megaliters; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_serum_albumin [wikipedia.org]),
        but presumably you can extract other useful factors from that as well. The rice might be suitable for fodder after,
        if we're lucky.

        Rice yield is about 4 tonnes per acre, so this would take 400 km2 to meet current demand.

    • by Amouth (879122) on Monday October 31, 2011 @08:10PM (#37902010)

      just for scale - using Wikipedia's numbers, in 2009 world wide rice production was 1,494,734,140,000 pounds so this would only account for ~0.024% of global production.

      Also if you note the rice production in the US it is significantly smaller than world wide production but still larger than what is needed for this - it also would allow for it to be isolated from main production areas so you don't have just a high chance of the gene making it to the normal food supply.

      doing GM crops in isolated non food production areas would allow the US to have a major export and not risk the world wide food production.

      While i'm not for or against GM crops over all - i am against it in the Food supply or used haphazardly (even glare at Monsanto)

  • 500. tons of HSA/2.75 g/kg rice = 181000 tons of rice.

    • by belg4mit (152620)

      It does seem a pathetically low yield. Why rice, and not bacteria like insulin?
      TFA doesn't say, and the linked DOI does not exist.

      • I think the albumin protein is a bit to big to be produced by bacteria. Albumin is 65 000 g/mol, insuline is 5 800 g/mol.
        • by belg4mit (152620)

          Interesting. It looks like yeast should be up to the job though,
          apparently folks have had it produce ~50 kDa proteins [google.com];
          as best as I can tell, android browser won't let me access the other pages of that 4-page chunk.

        • Bacteria have absolutely no problem making a protein the size of albumin. It is standard practice in biochemistry labs to have them make proteins of pretty much any size, I've personally worked on 150 kDa (or 150,000 g/mol if you like) proteins that I expressed in bacteria and I knew a postdoc who worked on a megadalton protein complex. Bacteria also have nonribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPS) [wikipedia.org], which are used to make things like antibiotics (in some cases to help bacteria A compete against bacteria B) an
  • Worried about these GMO crops cross-pollinating regular crops? The researchers referred to a study indicating 'a very low frequency (0.04-0.80%) of pollen-mediated gene flow between genetically modified (GM) rice and adjacent non-GM plants.'

    Hmmm. You may find the following news story and its associated paper interesting:
    'Escaped' Genetically Engineered Canola Growing Outside of Established Cultivation Regions Across North Dakota [sciencedaily.com]


    The Establishment of Genetically Engineered Canola Populations in the U [plosone.org]

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Canola isn't a plant is it? It's rapeseed. And then the oil was divorced from the plant name for marketing reasons to canola. So now we've renamed rapeseed oil to canola, but didn't change the name of the plant, and now are changing the name of the plant to match the oil that was deliberately named to not match the plant?

      Honestly, I haven't followed it, but this is the first I've heard of a "canola plant." And yes, I acknowledge that you never used that name personally, but that it's in the links you g
  • >>The researchers referred to a study indicating 'a very low frequency (0.04-0.80%) of pollen-mediated gene flow between genetically modified (GM) rice and adjacent non-GM plants.'

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • A farmer who's crops were pollinated by genetically modified wheat from adjacent fields was successfully sued by Monsanto for patent infringement. GM plants let out into nature spread their modifications just like every other plant. So the question is not 'if' it will spread but what will happen when it does?
  • And we can finally sate the zombie's [slashdot.org] hunger.

  • The main ingredient in "TruBlood" revealed!

    Rice farms devistated by vampire bat infestation.

    Rice-pudding and blood-pudding, now in the same bowl!

    Monsanto sues Dracula for theft of intelectual property.

  • The Vampires will be going public any day now.
  • There are already companies that produce human serum albumin in yeast or the milk of cows at gram/liter rates as a marketed products. I have trouble imagining that this costs more than extracting it from tons of rice.
  • Wouldn't it be possible to engineer plants that require a certain chemical that's not found in nature to grow? This would prevent GMO plants "escaping" to the wild.

    • It is very easy to create a "knock-out" version of a creature which lacks the enzyme to synthesise a particular essential nutrient. This is done to mice and bacteria all the time for experimental purposes. The problem is that plants are harder to contain than animals when it comes to breeding, often it means plucking every stamen off the mutant plant, and in large samples, a couple inevitably get missed. All it takes is a wild-type pollen to land on a mutant-type stamen and you've got a new plant which i
      • /s/wild-type pollen to land on a mutant-type stamen/wild-type pollen to land on a mutant-type carpel/
      • by Hentes (2461350)

        True, this would not protect against crosscontamination, only from getting out, assuming crosscontamination is already solved. Although I wonder if it could be tied to the modifications themselves somehow.

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