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New High-Yield Method for Producing Functional Proteins
August 28, 2012

New High-Yield Method for Producing Functional Proteins
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Reduces production time, process steps, and manufacturing space

Innovators at NASA Johnson Space Center have invented a method that produces three-dimensional, natively glycosylated proteins in a rotating bioreactor by using mammalian cells instead of recombinant RNA/DNA cells. Erythropoietin, interferon, granulocyte stimulating factor and vitamin- D3 are some of the natural proteins produced by this method. These substances are commonly used to treat cancer, diabetes and hepatitis. This new production method produces a higher molecular unit per volume than existing methods and reduces the manufacturing steps in the current production process because the use of bacteria is no longer needed to produce the proteins


  • Multiple Proteins: Process can be used to produce a variety of proteins including new protein types and newer biomolecule strains
  • Efficient: Time is reduced because fewer steps are required in the production process
  • High Yield: Potential to produce higher yield due to native protein formation
  • Minimal Space: Reduces production space by using bioreactors


  • Bioengineering
  • Biochemical
  • Laboratory
  • Medical
  • Pharmaceutical

Technology Details

How it Works
This innovation uses mammalian cells in a cell-culture vessel with a cylindrical outer wall that rotates slowly about a horizontal axis (bioreactor) as small shear stresses are applied to the cells. These stresses are small enough to prevent damaging cells and allows tissue–like assemblies to form on an orderly basis. Combining the effects of gravitation and rotational techniques creates an environment which in many ways mimics the human and animal physiology thereby allowing the production of three dimensional functional proteins.

Applying this novel technique resulted in the following discoveries:

1. Human and rodent kidney cells were grown and maintained receptors for two types of common toxins: nephrotoxic amino glycoside antibiotics and myeloma light chains.

2. Human kidneys expressed the enzyme 1-ahydroxylase, which can be used to generate an active form of vitamin

3. A mixture of mammalian kidney cells enriched in renal fibroblasts secretes erythropoietin (EPO), which is the hormone that regulates the production of red blood cells.


NASA has patented this technology under U.S. Patents 6,730,498, 6,946,246, 7,198,947 and 7,972,821 "Production of Functional Proteins: Balance of Shear Stress and Gravity" and are jointly owned with Tulane University.

Licensing and Partnering Opportunity

This technology is part of JSC's Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office, which seeks to transfer technology into and out of NASA to benefit the space program and U.S. industry. NASA invites companies to consider licensing this technology (MSC-22859) for commercial applications.

Contact Information

Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office
NASA's Johnson Space Center
Phone: 281-483-3809
E-mail: jsc-techtran@mail.nasa.gov


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