Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Insulin grown in tobacco plants

Filed under: , ,

Yes, the title conjures up images of a futuristic world in which diabetics puff their way back to health. "New! Insulin Cigarettes!" In fact, it's rather more innocuous than that: scientists have engineered a type of insulin-containing tobacco plant that could - in theory, at least - be used as a diabetes treatment.

A study has just been completed of its use. Once freeze-dried and broken down into powder, the insulin-containing tobacco leaves were administered to mice. The scientists who came up with the plant (and who are based at the University of Central Florida), found the powder successfully prevented diabetes symptoms in the mice after eight weeks. It seems pretty safe to assume, they speculate, that humans with type 1 diabetes could get similar results from ingesting plant-based insulin.

The only snag so far is the image problem associated with tobacco. As a result, lead researcher Henry Daniell, is proposing a switch to lettuce, which is cheap, easy to grow and - oh, yeah! - is not associated with cancer. Good move.

The results of this study appear in the Plant Biotechnology Journal (July 2007).

No comments: