Proteins are the hardest working molecular structures of every organic organism. They control the bulk of cell functions, such as intercellular communication, apoptosis, cell growth, and gene expression.
They assist in the increase of muscle mass, as well as strengthening bones. They are further known to improve overall sleep and brain function. Proteins are composed of 20 known amino acids, which are divided into two categories: Non-essential amino acids originating in the body and essential amino acids that originate outside the body and are obtained through a food source or external supplement.
Recombinant proteins are different from proteins formed naturally in that they are essentially mutated proteins created through the process of recombinant DNA technology. This occurs when researchers isolate a natural protein and modify the gene sequence before cloning it in an expression vector. It produces multiple target proteins that can be used for applications in the food and chemical industries.
The Role of Recombinant Proteins in the Food Industry
Recombinant proteins are used in the food industry in a variety of ways. The global population is on the rise, introducing significant concerns as to how to provide sustenance for so many people. As populations grow, the demand for meat and dairy products has grown exponentially.
To meet the demand, researchers have found ways to use recombinant proteins to produce more sustainable protein-based foods. The use of plants versus mammalian cells to produce recombinant proteins is cost-effective and can be used to create more protein applications than the use of microbes or cells.
The process by which plants are used to create recombinant proteins is called molecular farming. To date, hundreds of diverse proteins have been produced successfully via molecular farming.
There are at least as many applications as there are plant species. The vast number of plant species significantly increases the ability to produce a new protein, as each plant species has something to offer in the process. Ironically, the most-used plant thus far in creating new proteins to improve the overall quality of life is tobacco.
Using plant-based recombinant proteins to produce animal vaccines is highly favored over the traditional method due to its significantly reduced production cost. Plants can be fed directly to animals or used to clone the recombinant protein that enables the creation and injection of animals with the vaccine. Plant-based recombinant proteins are also used to create disease-resistant strains of crops, thereby increasing healthy crop production to meet rising demand.
The Role of Recombinant Proteins in the Chemical Industry
Industrial recombinant proteins are used prolifically in the chemical industry to produce detergents and various other cleaning products. These products contain recombinant proteins specifically modified to assist in the removal of tough stains and dirt from apparel and other surfaces, ranging from household to commercial.
Recombinant proteins are similarly used in the commercial production of plastics and other synthetic materials, including biosynthetic material such as recombinant silk fibroin, which is then used in morphologies ranging from clothing threads to biodegradable plates and screws used in the repairing of bone fractures.
Recombinant silk fibroin is so adaptable that it can be self-assembled or wet-spun into microfibers or hydrogel, electro-spun into nanofibers, solvent-cast into foam, emulsified into capsules, cast into a film or desolvated into particulate matter. These processes have been used to create artificial skin, as well as aid in the treatment of subcutaneous wounds and tissue engineering.
The use of plant-based recombinant proteins is rapidly assisting researchers to do everything from creating antibodies and treating disease to genetically modifying crops and even producing synthetic fibers capable of applications in the medical field.
What Are Recombinant Proteins & Why They Are So Important? ⋆ The Stuff of Success The past, present, and future of protein-based materials – PMC (nih.gov)