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Home-brew heroin...

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Edited by glimpse

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Experts have warned regulators to prepare for a flood of “home-brew” heroin, after researchers found a way of synthesising ­opiates from sugar.

The technique, reported this morning in the journal Nature Chemical Biology, could lead to cheaper painkillers and new antibiotics and cancer drugs, but co-author John Dueber said criminal gangs would soon be able to emulate the feat in suburban kitchens.

“We’re likely looking at a timeline of a couple of years, not a decade or more, when sugar-fed yeast could reliably produce a controlled substance (such as morphine),” said Dr Dueber, a bioengineer at the University of California, Berkeley. “We need to be out in front so that we can mitigate potential abuse.”

The Berkeley researchers harnessed advances in synthetic ­biology and DNA sequencing to work out how to turn glucose into morphine. They genetically engineered baker’s yeast to produce a mutated version of a pigment-producing enzyme from sugar beets.

The modified yeast proved able to convert tyrosine, an amino acid derived from glucose, into the chemical dopamine. An added enzyme from poppies triggered further reactions culminating in an opiate precursor called reticuline.

Researchers from Concordia University in Montreal had already worked out how to use the yeast to convert reticuline into morphine, in a study published last month.

The latest research means opium poppies are no longer needed to produce opiates, with a single strain of yeast now able to execute the entire 15-step chemical process. Lead author William DeLoache said this would accelerate research towards new drugs such as the analgesic codeine, the antifungal sanguinarine and the blood pressure medication papaverine — all extracted from poppies.

Mr DeLoache, a Berkeley doctoral student, said yeast had much faster “growth cycles” than plants. “Moving to microbes dramatically reduces the cost of drug discovery,” he said. “We can easily tune the DNA of the yeast and quickly test the results.”

But in a related comment, Massachusetts Institute of Technology academics warn that anyone with basic fermentation skills and access to the yeast strain may soon be able to grow morphine-producing yeast in home-brew beer kits. They recommend regulating access to yeast strains through licensing and tight security.

Mr DeLoache said companies that synthesise and sell DNA sequences should also be more tightly regulated. “Restrictions are already in place for sequences tied to pathogenic organisms like smallpox,” he said. “Maybe it’s time we also look at sequences for producing controlled substances.”

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Sick!

Even though im not a huge fan of opiates thats sick!

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Fun stuff

http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2011/jun/21/scientists-make-lsd-from-microbes

But if you get the biochem from the yeast -> opium paper (which it only kinda is - more about a cheap pathway to a general precursor) the scientists managed to beat the biosynth that poppies do in terms of steps/complexity

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I wonder why they're focusing on morphine (or morphine-skeleton precursors, or whatever)? I would've thought that fentanyl-family compounds would be an easier synth, and hundreds of times as potent to boot. Perhaps yeasts don't handle those particular reactions as well or something.

I'm impressed that someone managed to work out the reticuline-synthesis part so quickly - the Smolke et al plan had an air of underpants-gnomes to it... phase one, create reticuline->morphine yeast; phase two,????; phase three, morphine!

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Probably because of the commercial value of some of the other products derived from reticuline/thebaine

opiate3.jpg

Just remember that the hoo-har is that there are essentially 3 magic yeast's

-1 that can make (S)-reticuline from glucose

-1 that can convert S to ®-reticuline

-1 that finishes up the job and goes to thebaine or further

So now it's just a matter of time for someone to combine all three....

But it's not that easy, there are complex regulation difficulties that would need to be overcome

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the Smolke et al plan had an air of underpants-gnomes to it... phase one, create reticuline->morphine yeast; phase two,????; phase three, morphine!

(*hilarity*) Underpants-gnome. Is that a Linux thing?

Love the term. I've seen a few cross-discipline papers which use that method, everyone assumes some term and process is understood by the other specialists and the fuckup/ omission/ swiftie escapes scrutiny.

I'm stealing your underpants gnomes

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... and yeah, great, regulating companies which sell DNA sequences. That's gunna seriously stifle some research down the track. It's so dumb somebody will actually do it too because Think Of The Children

Let's face it, this is highly unlikely to become a backyarders process within any realistic time frame, right up until the specific yeast ( which I'm not familiar with ) is available in kit form to idiot-proof the process entirely. And anyone benefiting from the workup is most unlikely to be interested in proliferating the cultures via kit, so that's self limiting for a couple of decades ( by which time other teks will be in the ascendancy )

I haven't seen the paper, but normally ( and keep in mind research changes exponentially every year ) if you mod something there is a selection gene and a marker gene attached to the gene of interest, so that non-transformed cells don't live and outgrow the transformed cells.

Theoretically that's a major stumbling block for backyarders, the dodgiest of whom will not understand the requirement and whose batches will fail to produce because of it. Or who won't be able to access the selection chemicals. Or who won't keep enough library stock back so their culture changes down the generations

( Edit: don't forget I was wrong yesterday in this field, so YMMV )

Things which are likely to happen before this drugcopalypse:

Law enforcement panics are perpetrated via the news cycle and suddenly you need End User Declarations and ID to procure anything which could be 'diverted' for anything sciencey, like pressure cookers or dextrose

Dodgy bogus yeast cultures purporting to be of this strain are sold for $stupid on ebay and distributed on the grey market to people who won't know what they're doing and won't be able to work out why their sludge isn't getting them opiated.

Law enforcement comes up with a brilliant plan to extort several million taxpayer $ to train three specialists in forensic prokaryote genetics and nobody will call them

The panic will subside, but the legislation won't be repealed and you'll still need an EUD and a no-knock raid to buy a spatula

PS I am most cynical. And I haven't read the paper yet

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Probably because of the commercial value of some of the other products derived from reticuline/thebaine

Yes, I suppose the potential world market for morphine-kin is MUCH larger than for fentanyl-kin... I guess I was only thinking in terms of doses per gram of product yielded.

Thanks for pointing out that it's still three separate yeasts - the articles glossed over that a bit.

I'm stealing your underpants gnomes

That's alright, I stole them from South Park :lol: (short clip here - the boys find out their missing laundry has been stolen by gnomes as the first step of a money-making scheme). Linux, lol - I guess, it's a pretty versatile criticism which can be used for any & all half-arsed plans. And has a very catchy song to go with it - another one to be added to my growing list of Bad Songs to Get Stuck in Your Head While at Work... I'll have to publish the compilation one day

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Smolke Lab, Stanford, already finished the job in July (glucose -> thebaine, and glucose -> hydrocodone)...they deliberately did not aim for morphine, I suppose for political reasons. They say the yield now has to be increased by 100,000x to be commercially viable & they think they can do it in 3 years.

Edited by coin

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just as cd's and mp3's never killed vinyl (and never could), yeast brewed thc could never kill buds

Let's face it, this is highly unlikely to become a backyarders process within any realistic time frame

does moore's law apply to biotech? what about in 50 or so years when we're all hooning around in solar powered flying cars, can i make morphine-moonshine in my bathtub?

but in another sense, this will affect the traditional ways drugs like this are produced, i.e. though agriculture. with the availability of arable land decreasing and the worlds requirements for food resources increasing then the more land devoted to food crops the better i suppose. a pity for the tassy opium farmers but maybe they can make a warehouse for a morphine producing yeast farm.

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I cant think of a reason this special yeast wouldnt still make bread rise...

Am I the only one that thinks this would make the best pizza ever?

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