The molecular farming of crops that have been genetically engineered to produce high value products such as pharmaceuticals is predicted to become a reality within the next ten years. An important step in achieving that goal has now been realised with the successful production of an anti-tumour antibody in tobacco plants. In order to genetically engineer the plant to produce antibodies, an innovative system was developed which used the bacterium Agrobacterium as a vector for carrying foreign DNA into plants. This enabled the different genes required to produce the full-size antibody to be introduced into tobacco leaves. The functional antibody was then purified from tobacco leaf extracts and characterised using molecular techniques, in order to evaluate its performance. A combination of mouse and human antibody genes were used to produce an antibody which specifically recognises the carcino embryonic tumour antigen (CEA), a molecule that can be used as a marker for certain tumours. Such antibodies can be used to monitor the course of cancer and molecular farming would enable therapeutic antibodies to be produced on an industrial scale.
PRODUCTION OF DIAGNOSTIC AND THERAPEUTIC ANTIBODIES IN PLANTS BY MOLECULAR FARMING
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