Branching out

2019-03-07 05:14:04

GREENHOUSES could be the drugs factories of the future, churning out human proteins to treat diseases such as dwarfism. Plant cells are packed with chloroplasts—tiny capsules which harness energy from sunlight and have their own DNA. Scientists at biotech giant Monsanto have successfully inserted the gene for somatotrophin, a human hormone that is used to treat dwarfism, into the chloroplasts of tobacco plants ( Nature Biotechnology, vol 18, p 333). Somatotrophin is normally produced by genetically modified bacteria in fermenters, a complicated and costly process. Plants, by contrast,