Minggu, 20 Juli 2008

Human Drugs From Plants

Remember Cerezyme, that very expensive drug that can cost patients up to $300,000 per year? (See this blog, March 17, 2008.) Cerezyme is a human enzyme called glucocerebrosidase. It is missing in patients with a rare genetic disorder called Gaucher’s disease, found mainly in persons of Ashkenazi Jewish descent.

There may be good news for Gaucher’s disease sufferers soon. An Israeli company named Protalix Biotherapeutics has developed a protocol for producing recombinant glucocerebrosidase cheaply in large amounts. But they’re not using animals – they’re using genetically engineered carrot cells grown in cell culture in big plastic bags. The enzyme is already in Phase III clinical trials, meaning that it is being tested in human patients. If approved by the FDA it will be the first plant-made recombinant drug ever approved for use in human patients. This could be a breakthrough that leads to a whole new field in drug development – making drugs by inserting human genes into plant cells.

To read more about it and see a photo of the carrot cells in culture, go to Protalix’s website at www.protalix.com.

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