Almost Human? GMO Brown Rice Contains Blood Protein

Brown rice

Human serum albumin—a blood protein—has been added to genetically modified brown rice by researchers in a new study conducted at the Yang He and Daichang Yang at Wuhan University in China, and published in the recent issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Recombinant HSA proteins were introduced into the brown rice using Agrobacterium (a Gram-negative bacteria known for its ability to transfer DNA to other cells and plants) and wound up with nine plant species that could breed the GMO rice containing the blood protein. Test subjects with liver damage showed improved results after being fed the rice, confirming that the HSA was effectively present and capable of being extracted in “an efficient manner,” resulting in nearly half of the plant’s protein creating 2.75 grams of HSA from one kilogram of rice.

The human liver naturally produces HSA, but people can require more in the case of some fairly serious conditions. Including creating human blood plasma, HSA is used in managing cirrhosis of the liver, hemorrhagic shock, burn treatment, and it is found in a number of drug and vaccine tests.

The cost-effective, easily stored GMO rice grains containing the important blood protein may help with the worldwide shortages of human plasma, cites the researchers who have been looking for ways to create an artificial supply of HSA; current usage around the world tops 500 tons per year. Other plants, including potatoes and tobacco leaves were thought to be potential sources for HSA, as was genetically engineered mouse milk; but none were as efficient or effective as the rice, states the researchers.

Chinese researchers are also working on altering the DNA of cows so that they will produce a milk more closely resembling human breast milk.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.