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Producing medicines in plant seeds

Using plants to produce useful proteins could be an inexpensive alternative to current medicine production methods. Researchers from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) at Ghent University have succeeded in producing in plant seeds proteins that have a very strong resemblance to antibodies. They have also demonstrated that these antibody variants are just as active as the whole antibodies that occur naturally in humans. By virtue of their particular action, antibodies are very useful for therapeutic and diagnostic applications. From this research, it is now also clear that these kinds of antibody variants can be used in medical applications and that it is possible to produce them in the seeds of plants, which can have enormous advantages over conventional production methods.

Production of biotech medicines

A large number of today's medicines are made with the aid of biotechnology (and this number should only grow in the future). To do this, scientists use genetically modified bacteria, yeasts, or animal cells that are able to produce human proteins. These proteins are then purified and administered as medicines. Examples of such proteins are antibodies, which can be used, for instance, in the treatment of cancer. The conventional methods for producing antibodies work well, but they are expensive and have a limited production capacity. The high costs are primarily due to the need for well-equipped production labs and to the labor-intensive upkeep of the animal cells, which are needed as production units.

Plants: a possible alternative?

For a number of years now, the VIB researchers in Ghent - Bart Van Droogenbroeck, Ann Depicker and Geert De Jaeger- have been searching for ways to have plants produce useful proteins efficiently. Plants do offer a lot of advantages over conventional production methods. Because production with plants doesn't require expensive high-tech laboratories, scientists
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Source:VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology


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