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Corny collagen

11:48am, August 28, 2007

From Boston, at a meeting of the American Chemical Society

Slaughterhouse leftovers such as skin, tendons, bone, and cartilage are often processed into gelatin that's used in many products, including pill coatings and capsules. The primary protein in gelatin, collagen, can now be extracted from an engineered strain of corn, researchers report, suggesting that the pharmaceutical industry could go vegetarian.

In 2004, scientists at the company FibroGen in South San Francisco, Calif., spliced a collagen gene into corn and grew a small plot of the transgenic crop in Nebraska. But it took until now to develop a four-step procedure to recover and purify the small amounts of collagen in the corn, reports Iowa State University's Cheng Zhang, part of the team that collaborated with FibroGen to develop the process.

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