Tailor-made proteins manufactured in novel E. coli system

The prospect of using bacteria to manufacture complex human proteins for use in therapeutic drugs is a step closer thanks to new research published today in Science. Researchers from Switzerland and the UK report they have engineered the bacterium Escherichia coli to carry a vital piece of cell machinery that adds sugar molecules to newly synthesized proteins by a process known as glycosylation. The finding opens up the possibility of producing complex human proteins such as Factor VIII and the hormone erythropoietin, which stimulates the production of red blood cells by stem cells in bone marrow. Both these proteins, which require the addition of sugar molecules to function properly, are currently produced by culturing mammalian cells, which can be a costly and technically difficult process.