Novel Applications Of The Chloroplast Genome
Posted 23rd August 2017 by Jane Williams
Henry Daniell’s research analyses the crop chloroplast genome. In the past years, more than 40 crop chloroplasts genome were sequenced in his lab, including some of the most important crops such as coffee, orange, cotton and soybean. These sequenced chloroplast genomes are used to improve plants to make them more resistant to herbicides, insects, salt or drought, but more importantly, these chloroplasts can be used as bioreactors to produce low-cost vaccines and pharmaceuticals.
Future opportunities of chloroplast engineering
Chloroplast genetic engineering research has a lot of potential in biomedical applications for example in diabetes, a global threat not only in developed countries but also in the developing ones. The primary treatment for diabetes is insulin, which is currently produced in fermentation systems. This process requires an initial purification of the cells in which they are produced. This is a very expensive business as these machines cost several hundred million dollars and a large majority of the global population cannot afford them. Daniell’s research lab used the chloroplast technology to solve these problems.
They cloned the human insulin gene and introduced it to the chloroplast genome in lettuce leaves. At the end of the process, 70% of leaf proteins was insulin. Leaves were dried and powdered, then made in capsules and orally delivered to patients. This novel solution was demonstrably like injectable insulin in lowering blood sugar levels.
The same concept was used to develop protein drugs for a number of disease. For example, hypertension is caused by deficiency of two proteins, angiotensin-converting enzyme and angiotensin. The new treatment introduces these proteins through lettuce capsules and prevent the onset of hypertension of reverse hypertension. Similarly, Alzheimer’s is caused by plaques developing in the brain. Chloroplast biotechnology was used to introduce enzyme which can clear these plaques and restore normal function.
Future availability of these products
The product most likely to reach clinical trial in the near future is the one developed for haemophilia. Injection of foreign blood-clotting factor may result in the development of immune reaction. Scientists have developed clotting-blood factors in lettuce chloroplast and orally delivered it to patient to block these immune reactions they might develop as consequence of the injections. There is currently a major agreement between this research and one of the biggest pharma company to perform preclinical trials with the goal of bringing these treatments to the market by 2020.
Henry Daniell is Professor and Director of Translational Research at the University of Pennsylvania. He pioneered chloroplast genetic engineering as a new platform to produce and orally deliver low-cost vaccines and biopharmaceuticals bioencapsulated in plant cells.
Take part in the 5th Plant Genomics and Gene Editing Congress: USA and discover the latest applications of plant genome research.
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