Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Producing opiates from sugar

For several years, synthetic research teams have modified pathways into microorganisms to produce benzylisoquinoline alkaloids which are used in pharmacology. If it were possible, the analgesic production would be cheaper, safer and more effective. In recent years, synthetic biologists have engineered yeast strains to make morphine (belonging to opiates, naturally produced from the opium poppy Papaver somniferum) from sugar.
Going from glucose to morphine is a complex pathway which is carried out in 18 stages. Vicent Martin and his collages at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, created yeast that can go to R-reticuline to morphine. R-reticuline is an intermediate compound in this pathway. To go from glucose to S-reticuline (an intermediate compound before R-reticuline), John Deuber's team at University of California, Berkeley carried out their research. Both groups worked together to found the enzyme needed to transform S-reticuline to R-reticuline and have the complete pathway, but this could take many years. 

Stages known of glucose-morphine pathway. (Oye et al., 2015)

The last week, a research team by Cristina Smolkey, a synthetic biologist at Standford Universty in Palo Alto, California, published in Science that they had achieved to turn sugar into thebaine, a key opiate precursor to morphine, by a Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain. This biosynthesis required the expression of 21 genes from a rat, a bacterium and several plants. This research presents the most complete pathway of glucose to morphine, because thebaine is the last intermediate in this pathway, but is still the first piece of the project. Is necessary to increase the yield to each cell 100, 000 times to accomplish that the process scales up, be economically feasible and can compete with the oppium poppy production in pharmacology.


- Galanie, S., Thodey, K., Trenchard, I. J., Interrante, M. F., & Smolke, C. D. (2015). Complete biosynthesis of opioids in yeast. Science, aac9373.

- Oye, K. A., Lawson, J. C., & Bubela, T. (2015). Drugs: Regulate'home-brew'opiates. Nature,521(7552), 281.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Felicidades Nayeli

Me da mucho gusto compartir la noticia que la M.C. Nayeli Ortiz Silos, compañera de Biorem y egresada como Ingeniera Bioquímica de nuestra Facultad, ha sido nombrada como Secretaria de la Facultad de Ciencias Químicas de la Universidad Veracruzana. Muchas Felicidades Nayeli y mejores deseos para muchas éxitos en su camino profesional y nivel personal.

M.C. Nayelo Ortiz Silos

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Study of Effects of Pollution in Health Through Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells

During our life we are exposed to several substances due to industrial processes. These compounds tend to accumulate in the environment, thus, we are at risk of several health effects caused by them, even if we don't have a direct contact with the pollutants. Stem cell toxicology is a favorable alternative to animal tests or in vitro assays because it allows the develope of a pollutant of interest, quickly, thoroughly, and cost-effectively. Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have several advantages such as the ability of be cultived indefinitely in dishes, can be employed in developmental toxicity assays, and they can virtually differentiate specifically into any type of cell of an adult organism.
One of the most studied pollutants is Bisphenol A (BPA) that is employed to make polycarbonate plastics in different products, and is recognized by the effects in health such as fertility problems, behavioral abnormalities, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. 
The researchers used a combination of biochemical and cell-based assays to examine the gene expression during the differentiation of mouse embryonic stem cells upon treatment with BPA.
Previous reports have employed many in vivo and in vitro systems, but almost none utilized stem cells and when BPA was used in mouse ESCs, the effects were not toxic or not detected. In this study the effects of the toxicant BPA on mouse ESCs were tested with the stem cell toxicology system., resulting in a contradiction to previous reports, because the stem cell toxicology system was able to detect BPA toxicity in vitro, particularly towards the neural ectoderm specification.
"Our stem cell toxicology system proved to be very sensitive and reflective of the physiological toxic effects of BPA", said Francesco Faiola, Professor at the State Key Laboratory of Environmental Chemistry and Ecotoxicology. "What's even more valuable is the fact that this system can be applied to assess numerous other pollutants for their toxicity and/or lethality without the expenses of time-consuming animal models.

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