In another illustration of chemistry's knack for improving on Mother Nature, scientists in Canada and the United States are reporting that a synthetic version of a natural antifreeze protein — with numerous potential applications — is far superior to the natural product.
The study is scheduled for publication in the May 14 issue of ACS' Biomacromolecules, a monthly journal.
The University of Ottawa's Robert N. Ben and colleagues report on a synthetic version of the antifreeze glycoproteins (AFGPs) that enable Arctic and Antarctic fish to survive in freezing-cold waters. AFGPs, they note, have applications ranging from prevention of freezer burn in frozen foods to preservation of human organs donated for transplantation. Barriers to those uses include the scarcity and high cost of natural AFGPs.
In the new study, researchers found that their artificial AFGP, which can be produced in large quantities, also appears safer in laboratory cell culture tests. A natural AFGP caused cell damage that could substantially limit its use as an organ preservative, for instance, while the synthetic compound showed no such toxicity. The researchers term their results "exciting," and describe the synthetic AFGP as "an extremely valuable lead compound for the development of novel cryoprotectants."
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