Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New plant engineering method could help fill demand for crucial malaria drug

14.06.2016

A new and inexpensive technique for mass-producing the main ingredient in the most effective treatment for malaria, artemisinin, could help meet global demands for the drug, according to a study to be published in the journal eLife.

Artemisinin is produced in low yields by a herb called Artemisia annua (A. annua), otherwise known as sweet wormwood. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology have now discovered a new way to produce artemisinic acid, the molecule from which artemisinin is derived, in high yields.


A new and inexpensive technique for mass-producing medical drugs.

Their method involves transferring its metabolic pathway – the series of biochemical steps involved in its production – from A. annua into tobacco, a high-biomass crop.

“Malaria is a devastating tropical disease that kills almost half a million people every year,” says contributing author Ralph Bock, Director of the Department for Organelle Biology, Biotechnology and Molecular Ecophysiology.

“For the foreseeable future, artemisinin will be the most powerful weapon in the battle against malaria but, due to its extraction from low-yielding plants, it is currently too expensive to be widely accessible to patients in poorer countries. Producing artemisinic acid in a crop such as tobacco, which yields large amounts of leafy biomass, could provide a sustainable and inexpensive source of the drug, making it more readily available for those who need it most.”

The team has called this approach to producing more artemisinic acid COSTREL (“combinatorial supertransformation of transplastomic recipient lines”). The first step in their process was to transfer the genes of the artemisinic acid pathway’s core set of enzymes into the chloroplast genome of tobacco plants, generating what are known as transplastomic plants.

The team then used their best transplastomic tobacco plant line to introduce an additional set of genes into its nuclear genome, generating the COSTREL lines. These remaining genes encode factors that increase the synthesis, or generation, of the acid in ways that are still largely unknown.

“While the artemisinic acid pathway in A. annua is confined to the glandular hairs on the plant, leading to low yields of artemisinin, our COSTREL tobacco lines produce it in their chloroplasts and therefore the whole leaf,” says lead author and postdoctoral researcher Paulina Fuentes.

“We generated over 600 engineered tobacco plant lines that harbour different combinations of these additional genes, and analysed them in terms of the amounts of artemisinic compounds they acquired. We could then identify those that generated unprecedented levels of 120 milligrams per kilogram of artemisinic acid in their leaves, which can be readily converted into artemisinin through simple chemical reactions.”

Although further increases in these production levels will be needed if global demand for artemisinin is to be met, the study lays the foundation for much cheaper production of this life-saving therapy in a high-biomass crop, in contrast to a single medicinal plant.

It also provides a new tool for engineering many other complex pathways, with the potential to increase production of other essential therapeutic ingredients.

Reference

The paper ‘A new synthetic biology approach allows transfer of an entire metabolic pathway from a medicinal plant to a biomass crop’ can be freely accessed online at http://dx.doi.org/10.7554/eLife.13664. Contents, including text, figures, and data, are free to reuse under a CC BY 4.0 license.
Media contacts

Emily Packer, eLife
e.packer@elifesciences.org
01223 855373

Ulrike Glaubitz, Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology
glaubitz@mpimp-golm.mpg.de
+49 331 567 8275

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.mpimp-golm.mpg.de/2069723/rbock-malaria-drug-in-tobacco

Dipl. Ing. agr. Ursula Ross-Stitt | Max-Planck-Institut für Molekulare Pflanzenphysiologie

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Kakao in Monokultur verträgt Trockenheit besser als Kakao in Mischsystemen
18.09.2017 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen

nachricht Ultrasound sensors make forage harvesters more reliable
28.08.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Zerstörungsfreie Prüfverfahren IZFP

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>