Science & Technology

Do you grow and eat your own vaccine? Use of plants as an mRNA factory

The future of vaccines may look like this.

The future of vaccines may seem more like eating a salad than being shot in the arm. Scientists at the University of California, Riverside are studying whether edible plants like lettuce can be turned into mRNA vaccine plants.

Messenger RNA Or mRNA technology, COVID-19 (new coronavirus infection) Vaccines work by teaching cells to recognize and protect against infections.

One of the challenges of this new technology is the need to keep it cool to maintain stability during transportation and storage. If this new project is successful, the plant-based mRNA vaccine (which can be eaten) can overcome this challenge by being able to store it at room temperature.

There are three project goals made possible by the $ 500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. DNA Those containing the mRNA vaccine show that it can successfully deliver to some of the replicating plant cells and that the plant can produce enough mRNA to rival conventional shots, and finally determine the appropriate dose. ..

Green fluorescent protein

A leaf chloroplast (magenta) that expresses green fluorescent protein. The protein-encoding DNA was delivered by the target nanomaterial without mechanical assistance by applying droplets of the nanoformal agent to the leaf surface. Credits: Israel Santana / UCR

“Ideally, one plant produces enough mRNA to vaccinate one person,” he is leading the study in collaboration with scientists at the University of California, San Diego and Carnegie. Juan Pablo Giraldo, associate professor of plant science at UCR, said. Mellon University.

“We are testing this approach with spinach and lettuce and have the long-term goal of people growing it in their garden,” said Giraldo. “Farmers also have the potential to eventually grow the entire sector.”

The key to doing this job is the chloroplast — a small organ of plant cells that converts sunlight into energy that plants can use. “They are small solar power plants that produce sugar and other molecules that enable plant growth,” says Giraldo. “They are also undeveloped sources for making the desired molecule.”

In the past, Giraldo has shown that chloroplasts may express genes that are not part of the plant’s nature. He and his colleagues did this by sending foreign genetic material to the plant cells in the protective casing. Determining the optimal properties of these casings for delivery to plant cells is the specialty of Giraldo’s laboratory.

Plant nanotubes

Plant viruses provide naturally occurring nanoparticles that are being reused for gene delivery to plant cells. Credits: Nicole Steinmetz / UCSD

In this project, Giraldo used nanotechnology designed by her team to deliver genetic material to chloroplasts in collaboration with Nicole Steinmetz, a professor of nanoengineering at the University of California, San Diego.

“Our idea is to reuse naturally occurring nanoparticles, or plant viruses, for gene delivery to plants,” says Steinmetz. “Several engineering is working on this to move the nanoparticles to the chloroplasts and make them non-infectious to plants.”

For Girard, the opportunity to develop this idea with mRNA is the culmination of dreams. “One of the reasons I started working in nanotechnology was to be able to apply it to plants to create new technology solutions. It could be used not only in food products, but also in high-value products such as pharmaceuticals. “Masu,” said Giraldo.

Girardo is also co-leading a related project that uses nanomaterials to supply the fertilizer nitrogen directly to the chloroplasts that plants need most.

Nitrogen is environmentally restricted, but plants need it to grow. Most farmers apply nitrogen to the soil. As a result, about half of it flows into groundwater, contaminating waterways, causing algae outbreaks and interacting with other organisms.It also produces Nitrous oxide, Another pollutant.

This alternative approach takes nitrogen into the chloroplast through the leaves and controls its release. This is a much more efficient method of application that has the potential to help farmers and improve the environment.

The National Science Foundation has given Giraldo and his colleagues $ 1.6 million to develop this targeted nitrogen supply technology.

“I’m very excited about all of this research,” said Giraldo. “I think it can have a huge impact on people’s lives.”

Do you grow and eat your own vaccine? Use of plants as an mRNA factory Do you grow and eat your own vaccine? Use of plants as an mRNA factory

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