Painkilling opioids using bioengineered baker’s yeast

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New study shows opioids now produced in bioengineered yeast.

Researchers at Stanford University found out painkilling opioids, among the world’s oldest known drugs is now produced in bioengineered yeast. The yeast engineered with genes of six different organisms that includes goldthread herb, brown rat, Iranian poppy, California poppy, opium poppy and a soil bacterium.

The researchers been trying to find yeast-based alternatives, convert cells to sugar into two opioids, the hydrocodone and thebaine. The new study shows altered genetic code of yeast produced synthetic opioids that could possibly lead to more effective painkillers and cheaper drugs.

Professor Christina Smolke of Stanford University stated, “This is important because, with further development, it may provide an alternative supply for these essential medicines and allow greater access for most of the global population that currently has insufficient access to pain medication.”

“When we started work a decade ago, many experts thought it would be impossible to engineer yeast to replace the entire farm-to-factory process.”, “This is only the beginning. The techniques we developed and demonstrate for opioid pain relievers can be adapted to produce many plant-derived compounds to fight cancers, infectious diseases and chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and arthritis,” she added.

Opioids known as an effective treatment of acute pain, including pain after surgery, with therapeutic use of the opium poppy predates recorded history. Painkilling opioids are a successful in a long-term care strategy for those with chronic cancer pain patients.

A microbiologist at Concordia University in Montreal, Vincent Martin said, “If they’re going to take this to a commercial level, you’re going to have strains that are producing high levels of these molecules.”, “We can build and engineer strains much faster than we used to be able to, so I would throw a caution out there to not underestimate how fast this can move forward.” Martin also build opioid pathway in yeast for use in drug discovery.

Painkilling opioids also been found important to help severe, chronic, disabling pain occur in conditions like cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. Most of studies have shown opioids to be safe, however, it must be used correctly and in the ways that are well understood. IMAGE/Shutterstock

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