Antitrypsin (also referred to as alpha-1-antitrypsin or alpha-1-protease inhibitor) is a glycoprotein produced in the liver which is the major anti-protease in the blood, serving mainly to inhibit the action of protein-destroying enzymes such as trypsin and leukocyte elastase. It is a single-chain molecule, has 394 amino acids and a molecular weight of 51,000.

Hereditary antitrypsin deficiency is one of the most common genetic disorders among males of European descent. Alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency results in leukocyte elastase building up and breaking down the lining of the lungs, which results in a severe form of emphysema (oxidizing agents in cigarette smoke are also known to inactivate antitrypsin, thus causing the high rates of emphysema among long-term smokers).

Because over 20,000 people are affected by this deficiency in the U.S. alone, large amounts of this anti-protease are needed. To meet the demand, researchers are genetically engineering sheep that produce the antiprotease in their milk.

From the BioTech Dictionary at For further information see the BioTech homenode.

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