Austrian scientists are saving sharks with lab-produced squalene
Squalene is a natural oil that is omnipresent in all domains of life. The compound has proven to act as a booster for vaccines, eg. against SARS-CoV-2, and improves the uptake of the serum and the stability of the immune reaction. However, highest yields of squalene have been derived from shark liver oil so far. With increasing demand of squalene, the sharks’ life will be in danger: the production of 1 ton of squalene requires approximately 3000 sharks. In particular the production of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 could require an additional need of this rare substance, which could lead to the death of more than 500.000 sharks. Environmental organizations are sounding the alarm for the use of alternative resources of squalene.Scientists from the Austrian Centre of Industrial Biotechnology (acib) and from the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology at the Technical University, led by Prof. Dr. Harald Pichler, have therefore found another way to produce the this oil - with the help of brewer's yeast. They have already been able to successfully produce larger quantities in the laboratory. Brewer's yeast cells produce squalene naturally, but in small quantities. Therefore, certain metabolic pathways of the yeast cells were modified in a way that they now enrich this oil many times over.