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Cell-free processes featured in Nature

Updated: Jun 2

Carrie Arnold writes about the potential of cell-free processes for producing therapeutic proteins and vaccines including work in the DeLisa and Jewett labs

The following is an excerpt from Carrie Arnold's excellent Nature article entitled "How cell-free processes could speed up vaccine development": Antibodies have become the bread and butter for many pharmaceutical companies, and DeLisa says that the ability to synthesize these molecules using cell-free methods would be a “game changer”. But even the simplest antibody remains too complex for existing cell-free platforms to tackle, he says. There’s no fundamental reason that the technology can’t synthesize an antibody, but scientists have yet to work out precisely how to do so.

Part of the problem is folding: many complex proteins require other proteins called chaperones to attain their final form. There’s also the sticky issue of glycosylation. Half of all human proteins are tagged with carbohydrate groups that control their activity. Cell-free systems from bacteria lack the machinery to add sugars to proteins, whereas mammalian cell extracts can affix both desired and undesired chemical modifications. The DeLisa lab and others are developing specific glycosylation modules for bacterial cell-free extracts that would allow researchers to maintain control over the process and keep it precise.

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