Scientists from Novosibirsk are engaged in the development of an unusual vaccine which, apart from being less expensive to produce, safe and painless to administer, is also edible. The research is being accomplished in the framework of the ISTC Partner Project #2176, which is funded by the Agricultural Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and so far the project team has managed to introduce a HIV antigen protein gene into tomatoes.
Usually, vaccines are injected, but some - like the polio vaccine - can be ingested or eaten. Thus, a number of years ago plant genetic engineers started producing vaccine proteins in plants to test their effectiveness, which started a whole new area of plant derived edible vaccines. This approach has already been used to test vaccines for hepatitis viruses and some bacterial pathogens, but Dr. Sergey Shchelkunov at SRC of Virology and Biotechnology "Vector" wondered if an edible vaccine for HIV AIDS could be produced.
Dr. Shchelkunovs laboratory teamed up with other Russian scientists from both the Novosibirsk Institute of Biological Chemistry and Basic Medicine, and the Siberian Institute of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry in Irkutsk, Russia. A functional vaccine from their work is still to be tested, but as a result of project 2176 the researchers were able to insert into the chromosome of tomato plants a gene from HIV. Furthermore, they were able to show that the corresponding protein product from the HIV gene was expressed in different parts of the transgenic tomato plant including ripe fruit. And, because this is a vaccine based on a single protein from HIV, there is no risk of acquiring an HIV infection from eating the tomato fruit.
Alexander Ivanchenko | alfa
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