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Rice Is Genetically Modified to Produce Human Blood Protein

Brown Rice Chinese researchers genetically modified brown rice to express an artificial human blood protein. Wikimedia Commons

You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip, but it might be possible to extract it from rice. Blood protein, at least. Genetically modified brown rice seeds can produce a cost-effective and easily stored supply of human serum albumin, researchers in China report.

HSA is important for treatment of a wide array of maladies, including severe burns, liver cirrhosis and hemorrhagic shock, and it’s a key ingredient in drug and vaccine tests. But its primary source is donated human plasma, so it is in short supply around the world — not least in China, which even saw reports of fake albumin for sale after a price spike four years ago. Hoping to come up with an artificial supply, previous researchers have attempted to draw human blood protein from potatoes, tobacco leaves and genetically engineered mouse milk. But grains would be more efficient, according to researchers led by Yang He and Daichang Yang at Wuhan University in China.

Rice will keep in storage for long periods, it’s easy to grow and maintain, and it is also particularly good at accumulating DNA from other organisms, the researchers write in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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