Delivering Medicine Through Lettuce, World Altering Medical Advancements

Delivering Medicine Through Lettuce, World Altering Medical Advancements


– [Voiceover] What if
someone said to you that plants could help
cure Type 1 diabetes or be used to create a
vaccine against anthrax? Here at Penn,
Professor Henry Daniell, his team and a new
high-tech greenhouse are now making what seems
like science fiction into a reality. – At Penn, we have developed a new concept of making
and delivering vaccines. This concept is that
there is no need to use the pathogens at all. – [Voiceover] Traditional
vaccines contain killed pathogens, which
are inactivated versions of the bacteria, viruses,
or other microorganisms that can cause disease. However, to store and
deliver these vaccines requires refrigeration,
a costly technology that is also unavailable
in certain places around the world. And sometimes the
supposedly-killed pathogens still have enough
life to cause disease. – They need to be
transported in cold, stored in cold, and
then delivered in cold. Many of the remote
parts of the world don’t even have electricity. So by the time it reaches
the immunization center, the vaccine loses its potency. – [Voiceover] Dr. Daniel says
that the recent polio outbreak in Africa is a prime example
of how traditional vaccines, the need for
refrigeration, and the lack of available resources in
certain areas of the world are calling for a change
in vaccination process and expense. By injection therapeutic
proteins into lettuce cells, Dr. Daniell has been able
to make great progress towards replacing
traditional vaccines with versions that
are cheaper, safer, and more readily available. – [Dr. Daniell] Our
concept is producing these vaccine proteins
in plant cells and delivering them orally. These plant cells, once
they make these proteins, can be stored at
room temperature for months and years. Therefore, there
is really no need for cold chain and no
need for the pathogens. It will be a paradigm
shift in delivery of drugs. – [Voiceover] Penn
School of Dental Medicine has built a state of
the art greenhouse for Dr. Daniel in order
to advance his study of oral drug delivery systems. The greenhouse houses
plants that will either help treat chronic
diseases like diabetes and hemophilia or protect
against infections such as polio or HPV. – The lettuce cells
have strong cell walls, and, therefore, they
protect the vaccines. We have produced more than 30 different vaccines
using lettuce cells, and the lettuce leaves are very thin. We need to dry these
leaves, powder them, and make them capsules. – [Voiceover] Capsules
containing dried, crushed lettuce leaves can
be stored and shipped at room temperature
and easily swallowed. These green drugs
have the potential to greatly reduce the
cost of drug production and delivery, allowing
people world-wide easier access to
life-saving medicine. – [Dr. Daniell] This will
change the landscape and save lives, because
right now those who can’t afford the vaccine don’t
get it and they die. The goal is to get this to
the human studies next year. So this is a very
ambitious timeframe, but we have the resources,
we have the partners, so I’m optimistic.

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