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Novel bioreactor enhances interleukin-12 production in genetically modified tobacco plants
Date:12/5/2008

om those modified tobacco plants were then grown in a mist reactor developed in the Weathers lab. As its name implies, the mist reactor uses ultrasonic technology to spray a fine mist of water and nutrients on the root cultures, which are suspended in a plastic bag. The nutrient solution is collected at the bottom of the bag and recycled through the system. In this way, all of the materials are completely contained and isolated from the environment.

"Some have concerns about growing genetically modified plants in an open field where they could cross-pollinate with other species. Our mist reactor overcomes those concerns because the system is completely contained," Weathers says. "There is no interaction with the environment, and once we've collected the therapeutic proteins grown in the roots, all the remaining material is safely destroyed."

Traditional pharmaceuticals, like aspirin or statins for lowering cholesterol, are made by synthesizing and combining chemicals in a factory-like production setting. Therapeutic proteins are biologic molecules produced in living cells, which are then isolated, purified and prepared for use in treating disease. For example, insulin is a therapeutic protein now produced by inserting a human insulin gene into bacteria, which in turn prompts the bacteria to make human insulin. Using plants as a production system for therapeutic proteins can not only be more cost-effective than animal cell-based production, but can also significantly reduce the risk of contamination by animal or human viruses or pathogens.

In the current study, Weathers compared the capabilities of the mist reactor with two other common methods for growing plant culturesthe shake flask method and the airlift bioreactor. The results showed the mist reactor produced the highest concentration of interleukin 12. "Our system is simple and scalable. We'll use these data to optimize this kind of process and scale it up to the next level," Weath
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Contact: Michael Cohen
mcohen@wpi.edu
508-868-4778
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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