March 19, 2009 — 10:51am ET |
By John Carroll
A large team of European scientists has created genetically modified tobacco plants that can produce biologically-active interleukin-10, a potent anti-inflammatory cytokine that can be used to treat inflammatory diseases like diabetes. The transgenic plants were grown with two forms of IL-10 and will now be fed to mice to test their effectiveness.
First up for animal testing will be mice engineered to develop Type 1 diabetes. They’ll be given the plant material along with an auto-antigen. If successful, the scientists say that they have taken a big step toward the day when transgenic plants can be harvested and used without significant processing to treat various ailments. And that approach would greatly reduce the cost of production.
“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,” says team leader Mario Pezzotti, a professor at the University of Verona. “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.”
– here’s the release