How Inserting Venom-Producing Genes From Snakes into Yeast Can Save Lives

7. 21. 15 by Andrew Tieu
  • Extracted from the Agkistrodon Acutus viper, venom production genes are inserted into yeast chromosomes and the product is cultured with glycerol. The scientists then inject methanol into the test tube, stimulating the yeast to form snake poison proteins called Agkisacutalin.
  • Professor Xiao Weihua, lead scientist of the project, says that the yeast is more or less the same that is used in bread and wine. “The biggest value of Agkisacutalin is the near-absence of side effects,” he says. “All anticoagulant medicines at present lead to excessive bleeding, but Agkisacutalin doesn’t.” The modified yeast has proven effective in clinical trials and passed the required bio-safety checks, but some health authorities remain skeptical about using natural venom.
  • Xiao’s team still faces technological barriers in bringing their product to mass production. The modified yeast dies after producing the venom for 38 hours unless new colonies are frequently added to the solution.

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