Tag Archive: GMO


The Thiel Foundation has made a six-figure grant to a series of biotechnology startups, including a company that wants to 3-D-print meat.

Modern Meadow is a Missouri-based startup that believes 3-D printing could help to take some of the environmental cost out of producing a hamburger. He said: “If you look at the resource intensity of everything that goes into a hamburger, it is an environmental train wreck.”

The company claims that by carefully layering mixtures of cells of different types in a specific structure, in-vitro meat production becomes feasible. It’s set a short-term goal of printing a sliver of meat around two centimeters by one centimeter, and less than half a millimeter thick, which is edible.

The company explains in a submission to the United States Department of Agriculture: “The technology has several advantages in comparison to earlier attempts to engineer meat in vitro. The bio-ink particles can be reproducibly prepared with mixtures of cells of different type. Printing ensures consistent shape, while post-printing structure formation and maturation in the bioreactor facilitates conditioning.”

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Big news on the pharma front today: for the first time the U.S. Federal Drug Administration has approved a drug for humans that was produced in a genetically engineered plant cell. The approval could open the door to a range of biologic drugs that are generated in plant cells and then transferred to human patients.

The drug, called Elelyso, is a treatment for a disorder known as Gaucher disease that results from the lack of a specific enzyme. Engineers at Israeli biotech firm Protalix Biotherapeutics figured out how to grow this enzyme in carrot cells by inserting a specific gene into them that encodes for this human enzyme. In trials, subjects who received the “bio-pharmed” version of the enzyme showed improvement comparable to that of subjects given another treatment for Gaucher disease derived from hamster cells.

The ability to manipulate the genes of plant cells to produce certain human enzymes isn’t new, but up until now concerns about human biologics derived from plant cells have kept them from gaining traction with the FDA. But plant-derived biologic treatments have proven successful in drugs given to animals in recent years, and for the first time the FDA seems to have softened its skepticism toward bio-pharmed treatments.

For those suffering from Gaucher disease (it’s a lysosomal storage disorder, in case you were curious) that means another treatment option, and one not susceptible to pathogens that can affect mammalian cell stocks and lead to a shortage of usable drugs–shortages that have actually occurred in recent years. But the bigger impact is in the world of bio-pharming itself. Now that plant-derived human biologics have a foot in the door with the FDA, researchers think they can create enzymes to treat a variety of disorders using bio-pharming techniques.

 Source: PopSci

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Chinese researchers have found small pieces of ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the blood and organs of humans who eat rice. The Nanjing University-based team showed that this genetic material will bind to proteins in human liver cells and influence the uptake of cholesterol from the blood.

The type of RNA in question is called microRNA, due to its small size. MicroRNAs have been studied extensively since their discovery ten years ago, and have been linked to human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. The Chinese research provides the first example of ingested plant microRNA surviving digestion and influencing human cell function.

Should the research survive scientific scrutiny, it could prove a game changer in many fields. It would mean that we’re eating not just vitamins, protein, and fuel, but information as well.

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