STATES CHRONICLE – To most people, polio is something long-eradicated. However, a threat still lies in the remains of the virus, and now scientists have come up with a way to help neutralize it. At the John Innes Center in England, scientists are using plants in the latest of a string of experiments. Their results, while bizarre, are most promising and might prove useful for more than just polio.
Traditional Vaccines And the New Polio Vaccine
While polio has been eradicated up to 99%, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are still traces of the virus on Earth. To combat possible resurgences of the disease, there needs to be an adequate supply of vaccine kept in stock. Unfortunately, creating the vaccine requires large amounts of the active virus to be held and concentrated into a dormant vaccine. This is expensive and risks a possible escape.
Using a cousin of the tobacco plant, biologists at John Innes introduced viral DNA to the bacteria living in the plant’s soil. The bacteria would then infect the plant and transfer the DNA. Cells in the plant read the genetic material and produced empty “mannequin” copies of the polio virus in its leaves. These leaves were then blended with water to create a liquid solution from which the vaccine material could be extracted. Thus, it opened doors for an effective and cost-efficient new polio vaccine, according to the study team to develop it.
Professor George Lomonossoff of the team at John Innes called the discovery an “incredible” collaboration between animal virology and structural biology. “The question for us now is how to scale it up,” he said.
Since the process works well in making a new polio vaccine, experts predict it may work just as well with all kinds of other viruses, including current threats like Zika.
With such an expensive and risky process involved with making most vaccines today, these new “plant factories” could change the course of Immunology. Scientists are already using plants for several of their health benefits. Now, this latest research may be a major stepping stone in fighting infectious diseases.
Current study results are available in the journal Nature Communications.
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