the (advanced) research of the Californian university

The vaccine? Easy, like eating asalad. This is the new goal of medical research: ingesting vaccines through edible plants. A Californian study is carrying out a medicinally-based salad crop capable of delivering a vaccine through ingested leaves. Without needle or injections. Researchers at the University of California-Riverside are working on a way to grow edible plants that carry the drug of an mRNA vaccine, the same one used against the Covid. Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology attacks the virus teaching the cells of the immune system to recognize and attack a certain infectious disease. One of the difficulties with mRNA vaccines lies in how they are stored: they must remain in cold storage until the moment of injection.

Vaccine like salad, plants produce mRNA

A problem that could be overcome if, as hypothesized by the UC-Riverside team, people can “eat” the plant-based mRNA vaccines, then stored at room temperature. The scientists, funded by a $ 500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, will seek to deliver viable mRNA-containing DNA vaccines in plant cells, where they can replicate, to demonstrate that plants can actually produce enough mRNA to replace a traditional injection. At that point it will therefore be necessary to identify the right dosage to adequately replace vaccinations.

Ideally, a single plant would produce enough mRNA to vaccinate a single person – explained Juan Pablo Giraldo, associate professor in the UCR’s Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, in a university statement – we are testing this approach with spinach and lettuce, and we have long-term goals for the people who grow it in their own gardens. Farmers could also cultivate entire fields.

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THE VACCINE BECOMES “EDIBLE” Chloroplasts are needed to make edible vaccines: small organs inside plant cells that help convert sunlight into energy: They are tiny solar-powered factories that produce sugar and other molecules that allow the plant to grow. Giraldo’s team experimented with sending genetic material inside a protective envelope in plant cells, achieving the desired results and in a new study, with Professor Nicole Steinmetz of UC-San Diego, used nanotechnology to provide more genetic material in chloroplasts.

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Our idea is to reuse natural nanoparticles, ie plant virusesfor the delivery of genes to plants – explained Steinmetz – to ensure that the nanoparticles go to the chloroplasts and also to make them non-infectious towards plants. One of the reasons why I started working in nanotechnology – Giraldo concluded – was to be able to apply it to plants and create new technological solutions. Not just for food, but also for high value products, such as pharmaceuticals.