BioTherapi: Bioinformatics for Therapeutic Peptides and Proteins
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Techniques used in Protein drug production
Prior to advances in biotechnology such as rDNA technology, the few protein drugs available were taken directly from human and animal corpses. For instance, the human growth hormone was taken from human corpses and insulin required to treat diabetes was collected from slaughtered pigs. These drugs were available in limited supply and they were expensive, given their sources.
1. Hybridoma Cell Technology: Hybridomas are the fusion of tumour cells with certain white blood cells. They replicate endlessly and can be used to produce specific protein-based drugs called monoclonal antibodies which are effective in treating cancers and other conditions.
2. Recombinant DNA Technology: The introduction of rDNA technology or genetic engineering, has provided a large and cost-efficient source of protein-based drugs. Using genetic engineering, the gene that encodes for the required protein is transferred from one organism into another, which is capable of producing large amounts of the drug.
Genes determine what proteins do. If the gene encoding for a certain protein is known, it is possible to produce this protein. Biotechnology has enabled scientists to identify the different genes that encode for certain proteins. The human genome project has increased our knowledge of genes responsible for many diseases. The identified genes can be used to produce proteins and administer them to prevent and treat diseases.
Production of protein-based drugs through rDNA technology can be achieved through two common ways: through transgenic animals (pharming), microorganisms such as E. Coli bacteria or through hybridomas.
3. Transgenic Animals for Protein Drug Production: Transgenic Animals in health care are animals that have been genetically modified to produce a particular protein drug. The DNA gene for the desired protein is coupled with a DNA signal directing its production in the mammary glands.
The new gene functions in the mammary glands so that the protein drug is made only in the milk. The coupled DNA is injected into fertilized cow, sheep, goat or mouse embryo's. The injected embryos are implanted into surrogate mothers. The surviving embryos are then born normally and after these have been raised to maturity and bred, they produce the protein during lactation. The protein is then harvested from the milk and formulated into a protein based drug.