City Center => University of the Glorious Revolution => College of Science => Topic started by: Letonna on May 03, 2018, 03:31:04 AM

Title: This shit ain't kosher! Drugs Harvested From Animals.
Post by: Letonna on May 03, 2018, 03:31:04 AM
Animals aren’t just for petting or eating, they also make great little drug makers. What is often the case with human disease is a lack of certain hormones, antibodies and chemicals that make a healthy person thrive. And even though medical technology has come long ways since leeches and bloodletting, we still can’t really come up with efficient ways to manufacture many of these life saving substances.

I will be covering 4 organisms that we culture and manipulate into producing these substances. Part of the hurtle is not just that we lack technology, but rather cost. While we technically can make many of these substances, it doesn’t mean it’s cost effect or easy.

Premarin(conjugated estrogens):

Premarin is a fascinating drug. The condition it treats is interesting in its own accord, but the way we capture the drug is truly something special. Premarin is the brand name for a substance called Conjugated Estrogens. Conjugated estrogens are used in gynecological medicine to treat a number of different ailments, depending on how and where it is used. In IV use, it’s used as an emergency treatment for vaginal hemorrhage (excessive vaginal bleeding). This often happens during violent and rushed childbirth, or during late term in utero fetus death. The sensitive membranes of the female anatomy can easy rip, and the major arteries and veins can become exposed. A rapid application of Premarin can halt a lot of blood flow to the area, potentially saving the mother's life.


The topical application and tablet form is often used in post menopausal women to act as hormone replacement. Unfortunately after menopause, women experience less sensitivity, dryness and lack of desire due to a drastic drop in natural estrogens. These help revitalize the organ system.

Now why we get this drug from animals is unique. You may have noticed I said “estrogens” earlier; as in more than one. That's because unlike men, who have 2-3 testosterone like molecules, women have many estrogens that can be what's called in chemistry ‘conjugated.’ This means on the tetracyclic hormone molecule, there can be a variety of different functional groups. And each of these many molecules has a different potency or may bond to a different enzyme. To get a balance as close to human as we can, we must pick an animal that is naturally as close as possible to a human womans gestational hormone balance.

The Horse is such an animal. In fact Premarin is short for “PREgnant MARe urINE” This drug is harvested from a pregnant horses urine, purified and packaged in a handy once a day pill. Pfizer, always being ones to champion ethical business practices, have a factory where a female horse will become pregnant as much as possible in its life time to create these estrogens.


Remicade (Infliximab):

Remicade is an antibody we harvest from mice for use in patients with overactive immune diseases. Primarily crohn's, arthritis, and ulcerative colitis. It’s often given in a hospital setting, but primarily as an outpatient infusion. Mice are engineered to express this antibody for harvesting. However, to make a standard 100mg vial, many mice need to be harvested and so naturally the cost is exorbitant. Antibodies are giant proteins, and we still struggle as a species in creating complex foldings and disulfide bonds in the right places.



Heparin is a sulfonated polysaccharide that acts on clotting enzymes, primarily in dissolving clots and preventing them. It’s is a macromolecule, in the same size range as proteins (1-15 kilodaltons to those who care). They are very difficult, if not impossible, to manufacture in such a way as to act like natural heparin in all animal cells. Many animals can be harvested for heparin, but again, size is where the money is. Bovine and Porcine sources are primarily used in modern time, with most of the United States coming from pig intestines imported from China. The Intestines are emulsified and chemically separated to yield Heparin.


Insulin(Humalog, Lantus, others):
 Insulin is a protein, and like stated before, we’re not very good at making those. Many diabetic injections today like Victoza and Bydureon are actually peptides and are much easy to grow. However, insulin remains difficult. Normal human insulin, as well as many longer acting artificial insulins are made with bacteria. We have genetically engineered E .Coli to make these insulin proteins by splicing the genes into their own genes.

Desiccated Thyroid Extract (NP Thyroid, Armour Thyroid, Nature-Throid)

For many people who suffer from an underperforming thyroid, there are few options. Most people do well on taking a pill form of natural thyroid hormone T4 called Levothyroxine (Synthroid, Levoxyl) or Liothyronine, T3. However, many people who are acutely sensitive to thyroid changes and who haven't adjusted well to T3 or T4 are then moved onto a pill that is a mixture of all the thyroid hormones. This is a powdered and concentrated pill made of thyroid tissue. Depending on the brand, it could come from porcine or bovine sources. The thyroid gland is harvested from these animals, dried, ground up, and pressed into pills.

 These medicines are criticized by many people in the medical community as it has been found that per different batches, the amounts of hormones varies, often forcing the patient to go through these hormone fueled shifts.