Country: United States
Date: October 2007
Has an artificial enzyme or protein been made yet?
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
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,
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Update: June 2012