The advance, described today at the 234th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, may lead to a safe, inexpensive source of this protein for manufacturers who now rely on material obtained as a by-product of meat production.
Today, production of gelatin, a jelly-like substance, relies on the same fundamental methodology employed since commercial production began in the 17th century: Gelatin is derived from the break-down of collagen, which is a component of skin, tendon, bone, cartilage and connective tissue of animals. While there are no naturally occurring plant sources of gelatin, scientists have successfully modified plants, such as corn, to have a gene that results in the production of “recombinant” gelatin.
About 55,000 tons of animal-sourced gelatin are used every year to produce capsules and tablets for medicinal purposes. Plant-derived recombinant gelatin would address concerns about the possible presence of infectious agents in animal by-products and the lack of traceability of the source of the raw materials currently used to make gelatin. However, finding ways to recover and purify recombinant gelatin from plants has remained a challenge because only very low levels accumulate at the early stages of the development process.
Now, scientists at Iowa State University in Ames and FibroGen, Inc., in South San Francisco say they have developed a purification process to recover these small quantities of recombinant gelatin present in the early generations of transgenic corn. The method uses a four-step recovery system to separate the recombinant protein from other corn proteins with sufficient purity that its structure and composition can be verified, says Charles Glatz, Ph.D., a chemical engineer at Iowa State University who directed the work.
“Protein production from transgenic plants is a challenging process, with potential pitfalls all along the way,” Glatz says. “It is important to develop methods in the early stages of the development program to purify gelatin to demonstrate that it can be produced properly.”
The studies establish transgenic corn as a viable way to produce gelatin and potentially other products, Glatz says. In time, researchers may also be able to develop a variety of “designer” gelatins, with specific molecular weights and properties tailored to suit various needs of products containing gelatin.
“Corn is an ideal production unit, because it can handle high volumes at a low cost,” he says. In addition the recombinant gelatin is free from the safety concerns of using meat byproducts.
The purification process relies on chromatographic and filtration techniques, building upon methods developed by FibroGen to recover recombinant gelatin produced in yeast.
Glatz says ultrafiltration allowed the group to take advantage of the size difference between the recombinant protein and other corn proteins.
“This step greatly reduced the process volume for later chromatographic steps, and was crucial to achieving a high purification factor.”
The group is now working to refine the method and boost the overall recombinant protein yields in corn, he says. Though the procedure requires more testing, Glatz says the technique could someday be used to produce high-grade gelatin in a safe and inexpensive manner.
Overall costs could be further reduced by combining the production of gelatin in corn with the extraction of non-protein parts of the grain — such as oils and starches — that are now grown and harvested for biodiesel and ethanol production, he adds.
“Corn wouldn’t be planted for its gelatin alone, but those products could help off-set the cost of biorefineries that use corn to produce other products,” he says.
Cheng Zhang, a doctoral student at Iowa State University, presented details of the new purification process at the American Chemical Society meeting.
Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity
22.09.2017 | DFG-Forschungszentrum für Regenerative Therapien TU Dresden
The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet
22.09.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biochemie
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy