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Materials manufactured by cells

  1. Dec 6, 2005 #1
    Can anyone list some substances other than penicillian and insulin that are produced by organizms. It seems like most complex molocuels are produced by everything but chemical engineers. Am I correct in thinking that this is because it is very difficult to produce specific complex molocuels on a large scale. It seems like to me that certain compounds can only be created through the use of catylists. Am I correct in thinking this? Also does anyone have any idea on the scale that bacteria and other organizms are used to mass produce substances.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 6, 2005 #2
    I can name a few of human practical importance.
    Antiobodies to a virus or bacterium are made by in large quantities in chicken eggs.
    Also enzymes from organisms are used to catalyze reactions that are of practical signficance to us. Such as yeast being added to aid in beer and bread production.
    We use DNA polymerase, an enzyme that can polymerize the material for organim's genome, for many applications, such as DNA 'fingerprinting', many useful scientific assays.

    In the enzyme universe nature is billions of years ahead of humans (the enyzmes we make, not have in our bodies.) Although I have heard of some rationally designed enzymes that can catalyze reactions.
  4. Jan 2, 2006 #3


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    OK, there needs to be a bit of clarification of your question before it can lend itself to a precise answer.

    You are probably wondering about useful (to humans) chemicals that are produced by micro-organisms, whether in their natural state or post genetic manipulation. Better ?

    In their natural state, micro-organisms produce a few useful products. Penicillin, a useful antibiotic, is the product of a fungus. Other antibiotics are produced by bacteria (e.g. streptomycin, vancomycin, polymyxin B and bacitracin). Yeasts produce alcohol in brewing and gas in breadmaking. Bacteria produce enzymes that curdle milk to give yoghurt.

    We also genetically modify certain microorganisms to enable them to synthesise stuff we want. This falls into the discipline known as "recombinant DNA technology". We can insert plasmids (short segments of genetic code) into bacterial cells so that the cells are "commandeered" into producing large quantities of whatever we desire. Human insulin, human growth hormone and various vaccines are produced in this fashion.
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