New technology enables fast protein synthesis

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MIT chemists have developed a protocol to rapidly produce protein chains up to 164 amino acids long. The flow-based technology could speed up drug development and allow scientists to design novel protein variants incorporating amino acids that don’t occur naturally in cells. The automatic tabletop machine, pictured here, is nicknamed the “Amidator” by the research team. Credit: MIT

Many proteins are useful as drugs for disorders such as diabetes, cancer, and arthritis. Synthesizing artificial versions of these proteins is a time-consuming process that requires genetically engineering microbes or other cells to produce the desired protein.

MIT chemists have devised a protocol to dramatically reduce the amount of time required to generate synthetic proteins. Their tabletop automated flow synthesis machine can string together hundreds of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, within hours. The researchers believe their new technology could speed up the manufacturing of on-demand therapies and the development of new drugs, and allow scientists to design artificial proteins by incorporating amino acids that don’t exist in cells.

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