In a scientific development that conjures images of Chinese vampires taking over the earth, scientists at Wuhan University (in conjunction with colleagues from Canada and the U.S.) have figured out a way to extract human serum albumin (HSA) from rice seeds. From AFP:
First, they genetically engineered rice seeds to produce high levels of HSA. Then, they worked out a way to purify the protein from the seeds, gathering about 2.75 grams of the protein per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of rice.
When they tested the rice-made protein in rats with liver cirrhosis, a common condition for which the human equivalent is often used, they found it produced similar outcomes to treatment with HSA.
If successful in humans, the benefits of this development will seriously outweigh our fears over how eerily it coincides with the premise of True Blood. HSA is used in the treatment of serious burn injuries, hemorrhagic shock and liver disease, and the yearly global demand for it is about 500 tons.
Manufacturing the blood serum from rice also eliminates the risk of transmitting human diseases from blood donors, a reoccurring problem in China. But mass planting modified ‘blood rice’ in China could have consequences of its own:
Large-scale planting of genetically modified rice fields that could produce enough seed for mass production of the protein also raises environmental and food supply contamination concerns, since rice is a major world food staple.
Then again, they could always just grow it in space.