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Maybe you can get blood from a turnip after all

RICHLAND, Wash. - Plants have been used in medical treatments throughout human history, but researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory are taking a new approach to plants as pharmaceutical components. They are genetically modifying plants to produce human blood proteins and tissue growth agents.

These blood-clotting agents could lead to safer and less expensive treatments for hemophiliacs and an alternative way of sealing wounds. Pacific Northwest researchers have produced two blood factors that are used to treat most patients with blood clotting disorders. Even with screening programs some viral products such as HIV, Epstein-Barr, Hepatitis B and C and even the flu, can be transferred in blood products. Using plants to produce human blood proteins eliminates the possibility of transmitting disease along with lifesaving treatments.

"In addition to the obvious health benefits, we expect the cost of synthesizing blood factors in transgenic or genetically modified plants to be 10 times cheaper than current methods," said Brian Hooker, a biochemical engineer at Pacific Northwest. "And, unlike human blood donors or mammalian cells, plants provide a stable production source and yield much higher amounts of the desired blood factors."

Using genetic engineering technology, Pacific Northwest researchers are transplanting applicable human genes into tobacco plants and producing blood factors. Patents are pending on the production and composition of
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Contact: Susan Bauer
susan.bauer@pnl.gov
509-375-2561
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
12-Jul-1999


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