Scientists in China say they've extracted a protein from rice that can treat liver disease, burns, and traumatic shock. The breakthrough could lead to increased production of the protein, called HSA, which is "physically and chemically equivalent" to the HSA found in human blood and has been in short supply in China in recent years, AFP reports. About 500 tons of the protein is used per year worldwide. The rice extraction method "is safe and can help to satisfy an increasing worldwide demand for human serum albumin," the study says.
With help from colleagues in Canada and New York, scientists at Wuhan University in China started by genetically engineering rice seeds to produce more HSA. Then they purified protein from the seeds, creating nearly 3 grams of HSA per 2 pounds of rice. The study raises concerns that mass HSA production from rice could affect food supplies; it might also contaminate nearby rice that's not genetically modified, but study authors say there is a "very low frequency" of such contamination. (Read more rice stories.)