Chinese Scientists Succeed in Using Tobacco to Produce Vaccine Protein

A group of scientists with Shanghai Flora Physiological and Ecological Research Institute of China Academy of Sciences have succeeded in using tobacco leaves as "biological reactors" to produce large quantities of animal virus vaccines.

So far, this new technology has proved to be successful in laboratory tests.

The use of vaccines is the most effective way of controlling animal viruses.

The group of scientists are of the view that as tobacco grows fast and yields high output, the use of tobacco leaves to produce genetic engineering vaccines means lower costs. Besides, the vaccines produced in this way are safer than traditional animal vaccines, they say.

This time, the group of scientists spent seven years turning "harmful" tobacco leaves into "precious" biological reactors.

The group of scientists, led by Xu Zheng, researcher and president of Shanghai Flora Physiological and Ecological Research Institute, used a genetic engineering way to "put" the key part of animal virus protein into the virus protein of tobacco mosaic virus and used the "reassembled" tobacco mosaic virus to infect tobacco leaves, enabling it to reproduce in large quantities.

It is estimated that each mu (0.067 hectare) of tobacco can be used to produce 20 kilograms of vaccine protein.

Moreover, the group of scientists have cooperated with their colleagues with the Kentucky University of the United States in developing a purification technology applicable in industrial production, which can be used to extract large quantities of highly purified vaccine protein.

Results of inoculating experimental guinea pigs and mice with the vaccine showed a rate of nearly 100 percent protection for the experimental animals.

"Along with the rapid development of molecular biology, the use of plants as biological reactors to produce extrinsic protein will have broad prospects," Xu said.

This new technology can not only be used to produce animal vaccines, but can also be used to produce vaccines for preventing human diseases, such as hepatitis and diarrhea.

In executing a priority State-financed project code-named 863, Shanghai Flora Physiological and Ecological Research Institute is presently studying a way of multiple use of tobacco.

Besides vaccines, tobacco protein can also be used to produce health food and cosmetics.

Lowly toxic cigarettes produced with tobacco fibers contain 66 percent less harmful substances than conventional cigarettes.

Organic compounds of tobacco can be used to produce medicine. Enditem