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Making PLGA by one-step fermentation

By Paul Grad |

A Korean team, headed by professor Sang Yup Lee of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (Daejeon, South Korea; www.kaist.ac.kr), has obtained various forms of PLGA [poly(lactate-co-glycolate)] from natural sources, allowing plastics to be made in an environmentally friendly manner. PLGA is a copolymer of lactic and glycolic acid. It is biodegradable, biocompatible and non-toxic. It has been widely used for surgical sutures, prosthetic devices, and in drug delivery and tissue engineering. Up to now, PLGA has been synthesized by means of a catalytic ring-opening co-polymerization of two different monomers, the cyclic dimers (1,4-dioxane-2,5-diones) of glycolic acid and lactic acid. In contrast, the Korean team is able to biologically produce PLGA (and several novel copolymers) from renewable biomass by a one-step, direct fermentation by metabolically engineered Escherichia coli. Initially the researchers developed a method for producing PLGA in engineered E. coli. The process involved eliminating the genes responsible for byproducts formation and enhancing the expression of certain genes, thus achieving the effective production of certain target polymers. However, the team saw that it could not enhance the polymer…
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