Biochemists make new protein that may lead to artificial blood

March 24th, 2009 - 12:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 24 (IANS) Biochemists have conjured a completely new protein which can transport oxygen. This could potentially pave the way to making artificial blood.
“This is quite a different way of making novel proteins than the rest of the world,” said study co-author P. Leslie Dutton, biochemistry and biophysics professor, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (UPSM).

“We’ve created an unusually simple and relatively small protein that has a function, which is to carry oxygen. No one else has ever done this before,” Dutton said.

“For example, we found that natural proteins are complex and fragile. That’s why we’re not re-engineering a natural protein, but making one from scratch,” explained co-author Christopher C, associate director of the Johnson Foundation at Penn.

Currently, protein engineers take an existing biochemical scaffold from nature and tweak it a bit structurally to make it do something else.

“This research demonstrates how we used a set of simple design principles, which challenges the kind of approaches that have been used to date in reproducing natural protein functions,” said Dutton, according to a UPSM release.

The study appeared in the latest issue of Nature.

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