A plantibody is an antibody that is produced by plants that have been genetically engineered with animal DNA. An antibody (also known as an immunoglobulin) is a complex protein within the body that recognizes antigens on viruses and other dangerous compounds in order to alert the immune system that there are pathogens within the body. The transgenic plants become transformed with the DNA and produce antibodies that are similar to those inserted. The term plantibody and the concept are trademarked by the company Biolex.
A plantibody is produced by insertion of antibodies into a transgenic plant, causing the plant to replicate those antibodies through glycosylation. Plantibodies are purified through processess such as filtration, immunofluorescence, chromatography, and diafiltration. It is more cost effective to produce antibodies in transgenic plants than in transgenic animals.
Transgenic plants offer an attractive method for large-scale production of antibodies for immunotherapy. Antibodies produced in plants have many advantage that are beneficial to humans, plants, and the economy as well. They can be purified cheaply and in large numbers. The many seeds of plants allow for ample storage, and they have no risk of transmitting diseases to humans because the antibodies are produced without the need of the antigen or infectious microorganisms. Plants could be engineered to produce antibodies which fight off their own plant diseases and pests, for example, nematodes, and eliminate the need for toxic pesticides.
Antibodies generated by plants are cheaper, easier to manage, and safer to use than those obtained from animals. The applications are increasing because recombinant DNA is very useful in creating proteins that are identical when exposed into a plant's. A recombinant DNA is an artificial DNA that is created by combining two or more sequences that would not normally come together. In this way, DNA injected into a plant is turned into recombinant DNA and manipulated. The favorable properties of plants are likely to make the plant systems a useful alternative for small, medium and large scale production throughout the development of new antibody-based pharmaceuticals.
The main reason plants are being used to produce antibodies is for treatment of illnesses such as immune disorders, cancer, and inflammatory diseases, given the fact that the plantibodies also have no risk of spreading diseases to humans. In the past 2 decades years, research has shown that plant-derived antibodies have become easier to produce.
Plantibodies are close to passing clinical trials and becoming approved commercially because of key points. Plants are more economical than most forms of creating antibodies and the technology for harvesting and maintaining them is already present. Plants also reduce the chance of coming in contact with pathogens, making their antibodies safer to use. Plantibodies can be made at an affordable cost and easier manufacturing due to the availability and relatively easy manipulation of genetic information in crops such as potatoes, soybean, alfalfa, rice, wheat and tobacco.
Commercial use is not yet legalized[where?], but clinical trials are underway to implement the use of plantibodies for humans as injections. So far, companies have started conducting human tests of pharmaceutical products, creating plantibodies that include:
- Hepatitis B vaccine
- Antibody to fight cavity causing bacteria
- Antibodies to prevent sexually transmitted diseases
- Antibodies for non-Hodgkin's -cell lymphoma
- Vaccine against HIV virus
- Anthrax vaccine (from tobacco)
- Antibodies against Ebola virus
By being able to genetically alter plants to create specific antibodies, it is easier to produce antibodies that will fight diseases not only for humans but for plants as well. For that reason, plantibody applications will move more towards the medicinal field.
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