Updated: September 17, 2021 7:57:51 am
University of California, Riverside scientists are studying whether they can turn edible plants like lettuce into mRNA vaccine factories.
Messenger RNA or mRNA technology, used in Covid-19 vaccines, works by teaching our cells to recognize and protect us against infectious diseases. One of the challenges with this new technology is that it must be kept cold to maintain stability during transport and storage.
If this new project is successful, plant-based mRNA vaccines — which can be eaten — could overcome this challenge with the ability to be stored at room temperature, the University said in a press release.
The project, backed by a US $500,000 grant from the US National Science Foundation, has three goals: showing that DNA containing the mRNA vaccines can be successfully delivered into the part of plant cells where it will replicate, demonstrating the plants can produce enough mRNA to rival a traditional shot, and finally, determining the right dosage.
“Ideally, a single plant would produce enough mRNA to vaccinate a single person,” a release from the university quoted lead Juan Pablo Giraldo as saying. “We are testing this approach with spinach and lettuce and have long-term goals of people growing it in their own gardens. Farmers could also eventually grow entire fields of it.”
Key to making this work are chloroplasts — small organs in plant cells that convert sunlight into energy the plant can use. “They’re tiny, solar-powered factories that produce sugar and other molecules which allow the plant to grow. They’re also an untapped source for making desirable molecules,” Giraldo was quoted as saying.
Giraldo teamed up with Nicole Steinmetz, a UC San Diego professor of nanoengineering, to utilise nanotechnologies engineered by her team that will deliver genetic material to the chloroplasts, the release said.
Source: UC, Riverside
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