Scientists Manipulate Common Plants to Produce Cancer Drugs

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Sattely hopes to ultimately make microbes, such as yeast, produce the same molecules, skipping plants entirely. If she succeeds, she’ll be joining a number of scientists who have figured out how to turn microorganisms into drug-producing factories. Just this week, German scientists announced they’d made genetically modified yeast produce THC, the compound in marijuana that produces the “high” and can help treat side effects from chemotherapy and other illnesses. Last month, Stanford researchers published results showing how they had made yeast produce hydrocodone, an opioid painkiller similar to morphine. The breakthrough has potential to make such drugs cheaper and more accessible. In 2013, chemical engineers at Berkeley coaxed genetically modified yeast into producing anti-malaria drugs.

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Henry Sapiecha

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