from the eat-your-medicine dept.
It’s the dog days of summer. You bite down on a plump, chilled orange. Citrus juice explodes in your mouth in a refreshing, tingling burst. Ahh.
And congratulations—you’ve just been vaccinated for the latest virus.
That’s one of the goals of molecular farming, a vision to have plants synthesize medications and vaccines. Using genetic engineering and synthetic biology, scientists can introduce brand new biochemical pathways into plant cells—or even whole plants—essentially turning them into single-use bioreactors.
The whole idea has a retro-futuristic science fiction vibe. First conceived of in 1986, molecular farming got its boost three decades later, when the FDA approved the first—and only—plant-derived therapeutic protein for humans to treat Gaucher disease, a genetic disorder that prevents people from breaking down fats.
But to Drs. Hugues Fausther-Bovendo and Gary Kobinger at Université Laval, Quebec and Galveston National Laboratory, Texas, respectively, we’re just getting started. In a new perspective article published last week in Science, the duo argues that plants have long been an overlooked resource for biomanufacturing.
[...] “Molecular farming could have a considerable impact on both human and animal health,” the authors said.