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Name: Peter
Status: Other
Grade:  Other
Location: N/A
Country: United States
Date: October 2007


Question:
Has an artificial enzyme or protein been made yet?



Replies:
The first artificial enzyme (Ribonuclease A) was synthesize by Robert Bruce Merrifield in 1971 at the Rockefeller Institute. Merrifield received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1984 in recognition of this accomplishment. Since that time, hundreds of different proteins have been synthesize using his method. Merrifield died in 2006 at the age of 82.

Ron Baker, Ph.D.


Certainly lots of research has been done in changing and modifying proteins. We have engineering organisms like bacteria to make proteins for us that they wouldn't ordinarily make. We have changed gene sequences to make different proteins than naturally occur. Usually we use bacteria like E.coli or animal cells like CHO to make the proteins because using natural machinery is a lot more efficient than using synthetic chemistry. We do know how to make proteins from scratch, although few people do it because it's so time consuming. In the case of antibodies, which are a kind of immune system protein, we have made novel proteins that are useful in the body to treat disease. To my knowledge we are not yet to the point of designing enzymes from scratch to do useful work in large scale -- although that would be extremely useful for making biofuels and many other applications. We do practice massively large-scale experiments to force cells to change, and then pick the ones that change for the better. This selection process often benefits from enzymes changing, but it's more of a random process rather than a rational design process.

Hope this helps,
Burr



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