A very commonly know ingredient is facing a change, considering yeast is in bread and beer, and now, in painkillers, or at the very least, it can certainly be. The researchers at Stanford University have achieved the first breakthrough regarding yeast in many years, through engineering ingenuity and reprogramming of genetic machinery.
For many generations, yeast has been a well known component of famous products such as wine, beer and bread, but it seems to be breaking into the market of pain management, as a team of scientists broke it down, or built it up, into a form of an opioid.
It was perhaps decades worth of research and hard work, but professor of bioengineering Christina Smolke and her team managed to successfully manipulate yeast to convert sugar into hydrocodone.
Hydrocodone is commonly used in palliative and pain management medicine, and has been found to be a chemical relative of others, such as morphine, members of a family found in opium poppy plants.
However, it might take a long time for it to reach the market, as it was estimate to take around a year to produce a batch of the yeast-based painkilling drugs, going from farms to laboratories, and it would take 4,400 gallons of bioengineered yeast in order to result in just one single dose of pain relieving drugs.
The study proves that it’s possible though, by using highly complex processes and adding a number up to 26 genes in order to manipulate the ingredient into producing the right compound. It’s the most complicated synthesis of chemicals ever encountered in yeast, according to professor Smolke.
The bigger picture, however, is the most crucial point of their findings. It sets the stage for other significant research. The complicated process and intricate techniques used on yeast can successfully be adapted in the future to produce and develop many more plant-based compounds that could combat cancer, infectious diseases, blood pressure or arthritis.
It’s the most innovative discovery in yeast in many years, which has now proven its never before encountered ability to aid in pain management, by becoming the main ingredient in plant-based painkillers.
Due to the infamous history of pain relievers and their often connections to drug-seeking behavior or actual making of illegal drugs, the researchers have been questioned about their study potentially unlocking a new market for dealers. However, while the possibility has been acknowledged, it has been slightly debunked at the same time.
The same potentially beneficial processes are so complex that they cannot be copied outside a laboratory, so the basic chemistry set or home kit will not help anyone turn yeast into a pain relieving drug.
Image source: medicalnewstoday.com