Rebaudioside M

March 06, 2017
I may be the next big-time sweetener.
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Image of Rebaudioside M 3D Image of Rebaudioside M

The rebaudiosides are steviol glycosides that are more than 100 times sweeter than sugar. They are found in the leaves of the stevia plant (Stevia rebaudiana), from which they get their name. The leaves have been used by indigenous South American peoples since at least the 5th century CE.

The rebaudiosides exist in such small concentrations in the leaves that isolating them is impractical for commercial production. But now, Manus Biosynthesis (Cambridge, MA) is developing a scalable fermentation process to make one of the isomers (rebaudioside M, shown) in commercial quantities. The process was initially developed in the laboratory of Gregory Stephanopoulos at MIT. Thus far, Manus has produced bulk quantities of rebaudioside M in 95% purity.

MOTW Update

trans-Resveratrol was the Molecule of the Week twice, most recently in 2006. It is famously the constituent of red wine that causes the “French effect”, the body’s ability to ward off heart problems despite a high-fat diet. Now, the Swiss company Evolva is using a yeast fermentation process that it acquired in 2012 to produce resveratrol biosynthetically from sugar. To prepare for marketing the product, the company began clinical trials in 2015.

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