Monday, February 04, 2013

Scientists find modified tobacco can treat this deadly infection

Tobacco leaves
Sure breathing in that tobacco smoke may be bad for you, but apparently tobacco has some redeeming properties. Scientists have genetically modified tobacco plants to produce anti-bodies that treat rabies, a deadly infection contracted from an animal bite. The virus travels from the wound to the brain where it causes inflammation. The new antibody works by preventing the virus from attaching to nerve endings around the bite site and keeps the virus from traveling to the brain.

"Rabies continues to kill many thousands of people throughout the developing world every year and can also affect international travelers," said Leonard Both, M.Sc., a researcher involved in the work from the Hotung Molecular Immunology Unit at St. George's, University of London, in the United Kingdom. "An untreated rabies infection is nearly 100 percent fatal and is usually seen as a death sentence. Producing an inexpensive antibody in transgenic plants opens the prospect of adequate rabies prevention for low-income families in developing countries."

To make this advance, Both and colleagues "humanized" the sequences for the antibody so people could tolerate it. Then, the antibody was produced using transgenic tobacco plants as an inexpensive production platform. The antibody was purified from the plant leaves and characterized with regards to its protein and sugar composition. The antibody was also shown to be active in neutralizing a broad panel of rabies viruses.


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