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Technoscience

Tobacco produces pro-insulin

A team from CBMEG, Unicamp’s Center for Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering, has managed to produce pro-insulin in tobacco seeds (Nicotina tabacum).  It is a partial victory.  Pro-insulin is a preliminary form – a draft – of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. It reaches its final form through the elimination of a central stretch of its structure, as the result of an enzyme, pro-insulin convertase.  With the support of a FAPESP, the biochemist, Adilson Leite, intends to make the plant itself produce this enzyme, and remove the unwanted part from the pro-insulin, and so supplying insulin itself, in another year or two. In the quest for more practicable and economical alternatives for producing proteins of human interest, there has already been success in making transgenic plants produce enzymes, hormones, antibodies and antigens that can be used as vaccines.

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