Human Serum Albumin (HSA) is a protein commonly used in vaccines and often administered for serious burn injuries and liver disease and commonly in short supply due to a lack of donors. That’s why researchers from Wuhan University have figured out how to grow it—not in people, but in rice.
The researchers have genetically engineered rice stock to produce high levels of HSA, which is then extracted from the harvested seeds and purified into a usable serum—netting 2.75 grams of HSA per kilo of rice. Tests on rat models with liver cirrhosis showed that the derived protein provided the same effect as and is, “physically and chemically equivalent to blood-derived human serum albumin (HSA),” according to the report.
Unfortunately, given the amount of rice necessary to manufacture a sufficient amount of the serum —worldwide consumption is 500 tons a year—would require the large-scale planting of genetically modified crops which is in itself a dangerous ecological and political minefield. Of course, if NIMBY concerns outweigh the benefits of this method, we can always grow blood from stem cells. That’s much less controversial, right?