Researchers develop yeast that converts sugar into morphine

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I’m going to say what I said when I first saw this on RSC’s Facebook post, which was a stupid scaremongering headline about how this means that we need to institute safeguards to prevent abuse: You can already get morphine by growing poppies. It’s like getting yeast to make THC. So? Poppies are already flooding the market with cheap drugs thanks to our “War on Terr’”. Not to diminish the scientists’ results, but it’s mostly just interesting research science. Poor Afghan farmers are pretty cheap labor-wise, in a lot of ways this is a solution in search of a problem.


Shoot, you could just go ahead and make brownies and I would be happy. Morphine would be overdoing it.



Sign me up!

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It will soon be possible to homebrew opiates just as one homebrews beer

That sounds like more work than watering one’s garden.


I think you’re missing the next logical step:


Hmm - sounds neat. If only they would make it legal haha.

Just because it’s ‘yeast’ doesn’t make it easily obtainable or regulatable. It’s not like bread yeast or beer yeast. Completely different organism that you would need to get to make morphine, and you are not going to get a hold of this in the same way you are not going to any biological component of any pharmaceutical. And you’re not going to get morphine just from growing poppies, you need to do a bunch of processing to purify it.
As for scientific purposes and even medicine production this is really cool. Yeasts are great little factories for chemical conversion. It’s a field that is really starting to get a serious hold on its potential.


I’m a huge fan of research and science, and Clarke’s law regarding tech and magic is beginning to look like the new normal, but I’d also like to see…not pushback against science of this sort, but maybe some exhorations against the hubris that must certainly come with all of our gene splicing and remote Mars explorers. I’m not saying we shouldn’t learn to develop yeast that converts sugar into other things, or that genetic research (to single out one line of scientific endeavor) is bad, but I wonder if we’ve fully developed the laws and ethics surrounding scientific research as a whole?
And I’m thinking more about a recent story concerning scientists manipulating the human genome than I am yeast, but the point remains the same.

For all chronic pain suffer and people that can and do improve their lives from this wonderful plant I welcome a kit into my home. lets do it right, moderate, legit and properly.


We need to aggressively push the DIYbio research. Cheap instruments, semiautomated methods of acquiring the needed enzymes from sub-par stock, analytical instrumentation to make sure we got what we wanted at every step.

Once this tech is in every garage, nobody can stop it.

And that’s why it has to be so decentralized that the naysayers don’t have any say left.


Pushing the boundaries is a key facet of research and exploration. I wouldn’t call it hubris, per se. And there are a huge amount of ethical considerations, as far as government funding, there are science and ethics committees that, imo, are a bit too restrictive. Internally, there are strict ethical guidelines, especially with genetic research. Ethics are developed as our society develops and involves a lot of opinion. Remember when it was ethical to own people or beat your wife? It all develops and hopefully for the better.

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Does this mean it’s safe to take this morphine? Because I was told that GMO food is completely safe.


Surprisingly, a good many people would not choose to make morphine in their garage.


Can you explain this a little more? I tend to fix my own vehicles, homebrew, and garden. Making whiskey and growing weed are not difficult things with a little DIY brow-sweat. But knowing the stupid shit people get up to on a regular basis, and knowing that well-moneyed organizations sometimes get up to some really stupid shit, I’m not so sure that I want my idiot neighbor with a grudge to be brewing anthrax spores in his basement, or some well-heeled organization paying homeless people for the right to do genetic research on their bodies. I hope that’s not taken as fear-mongering since that’s definitely not my intention. Of course, I did just read a book about the Nunn-Lugar agreement that described the feeling US officials got when they visited a soon-to-be-decom’d Russian Bioresearch facility that could prepare many many tons of anthrax…in case they were attacked, of course. (Not picking on the Russians since I know full well the US has plenty of WMD material itself).
All of which is to say that given the millenia nature took to develop homo sapiens, maybe we should think a touch before tweaking things 50+ years after figuring out DNA itself.

Agreed, to an extent. I was thinking specifically about this news:

I’m not against such research, especially since it appears they’re using non-viable cells (apparently to soothe ethical fears), but are our ethics strong enough to keep the really bad stuff at bay?

And the US announces the War on YeastTM in 3…2…1…


And they should have that right.
They however should not bother their neighbor who decides otherwise.

Is it really that much worse than having a bunch of old men with neckties doing the decisions and generally acting like frogs in the well? Shouldn’t we have some enclaves of few to no rules where experimentation can be done freely without ass-covering committees, where mistakes can be done and analyzed fast?

As of anthrax spores, an inseparable part of the technology has to be a way to quickly sequenate the pathogens encountered and rapidly manufacture the necessary vaccines (or interference RNA, or other countermeasure), tailored to the germ’s characteristics. Infections are self-limiting - either they are too fast and cannot spread enough before killing the hosts, or they are slower than that and then they will give enough time to make and deploy the countermeasure.

Such high proliferation of “rapid response” seq-synth" machines would provide a high degree of resilience against biothreats, from a garage experiment gone wrong to a govt-funded bio attack mentioned in your report to naturally occurring issues.

Big mammal, long life cycle, no chance to multiply out of control. Where’s the bloody problem?
I’d worry more about single-cell things.

My cheap digital microscope project was motivated partly by operating on germline cells. The thing was successfully tested in 2003. There is a matching project of a micromanipulator, made of a CDROM lens actuator voice coil pair, which is in the stage of very early testing. Granted, these are only very very small knots on the technological tapestry, but even the longest march is composed of single steps. And the proliferation of 3d printing is making development of lab equipment WAY WAY faster, at least of the mechanical parts.

You really should read Bruce Sterling’s short story ‘Our Neural Chernobyl’ before thinking that we need this tech in every garage :wink:


Your faith in your fellow man is touching. I am sure BP was just about to cap that oil well and analyze their mistakes, and they only appeared to cover up and duck responsibility because of those meddling kids EPA agents.


I probably would. I probably shouldn’t, like. I’ve grown opium poppies before, which is enough to fuck your shit right up, if you’re not careful. I fucking love morphine.