The US scientist had actually used the tobacco plant to “grow” major components of a cancer vaccine. As per a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the tobacco plant may help tackle a certain form of lymphoma.
Specialists in UK said that although it sounds “potentially exciting” more research will have to be carried out to test the manner in which the vaccine works.
A group of researchers from Stanford University, California, are using the plants as factories to grow an antibody chemical, particularly to the cells that cause follicular B-cell lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
These antibodies will then be injected on a patient newly-diagnosed with the disease, so as to “prime” the immune system to attack any cell that carries them. If this proves successful, it would imply that the body can recognize and destroy the lymphoma cells.
However, the antibodies of each patient are different, and hence, it may have to be produced quickly as soon as the diagnosis is done.
This strategy has already been experimented with the antibodies being grown inside animal cells, but, the results have met with only mixed success. On the other hand, a plant-grown vaccine will be much cheaper and would carry minimal risk to the patient, as against animal-grown vaccines that may carry unknown viruses.
Till date, the experimental vaccine has been tried only on handful of patients to study any possible negative effects of using plant-grown antibodies. Hence the effectiveness of the vaccine in fighting the disease successfully is yet to be confirmed. The leading researcher Dr. Ronald Levy said that it seems pretty cool technology that one can make a treatment for cancer out of tobacco. The technique used is that after isolating the patient’s cancer cells in the laboratory, the gene responsible for producing the antibody will be extracted and added to “tobacco mosaic virus“. The plants are then “infected” with the virus, and as it spreads through cells, the added gene starts generating large quantities of antibodies. A few leaves will be taken, ground up and the antibody will be extracted from them, after a couple of days.