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Tobacco used to “grow” medicine


Autoimmine diseases could soon be treated using drugs produced in genetically modified tobacco plants, it has been suggested.

Researchers from the University of Verona, Italy, engineered tobacco plants containing genes for interleukin-10, a “cytokine” immune system signalling molecule.

The molecules exists in such high quantities within the leaves themselves that inflammatory diseases could be treated without the need for extraction or purification of the chemical.

Writing in the journal BMC Biotechnology, the scientists hope that the plant could be used in combination with other biologically active chemicals to treat insulin-dependent, or type 1, diabetes.

Study leader Professor Mario Pezzoti said: “Transgenic plants are attractive systems for the production of therapeutic proteins because they offer the possibility of large scale production at low cost, and they have low maintenance requirements.

“The fact that they can be eaten, which delivers the drug where it is needed, thus avoiding lengthy purification procedures, is another plus compared with traditional drug synthesis.”

Copyright Press Association 2009

University of Verona

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