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Critter Chemistry

December 23, 2002

Silkworms Spin Collagen Cocoons

Transgenic silkworms that produce cocoons containing recombinant human collagen have been developed by Masahiro Tomita, Katsutoshi Yoshizato, and other scientists involved in the Hiroshima Tissue Regeneration Project, a collaborative effort of Japan Science & Technology Corp. [Nat. Biotechnol., published online Dec. 16,]. The study demonstrates the viability of transgenic silkworms as a tool for producing useful proteins in bulk, the researchers say. Collagen has many medical applications, including tissue engineering and drug delivery materials. It is currently derived from cow skin, a source that can cause allergic reactions. In the study, the scientists constructed a DNA sequence that produced a fusion protein containing an ordinary silk protein, a fluorescent marker, and a shortened form of the precursor molecule for human type III collagen. When this DNA was incorporated into a vector and injected into silkworms, the silkworms synthesized the fusion protein in their silk glands and secreted it into cocoons. One chromatographic step separated the fusion protein from the other cocoon proteins.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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