Modified plants may provide BSE antibodies

21-05-2008 | |
Modified plants may provide BSE antibodies

Dr. Nat Kav from the University of Alberta, Canada is studying how modified plants – containing antibodies – can protect cattle from developing BSE.

Cattle’s immune systems do not detect the abnormal
protein that causes the disease, so the animals do not produce antibodies to
attack the folded protein that eats holes in the brain.

World renowned
Swiss scientist Adriano Aguzzi managed to create antibodies to BSE using mice,
and Kav and James obtained some of these for this project, Kav explained. Kav is
working on transferring them into plants, while James is looking at the
structure of the antibodies to see how they prevent the prion from suddenly
becoming misshapen.

“Growing the antibodies in plants is not a problem,”
says Kav. That kind of transgenic plant (transplanting genetic material from one
organism to another) is not difficult. “The question is whether the antibodies
will prevent the protein from shifting shape.”

In the long run, if the antibody
is successful in fighting the rogue prion, the same process could be used to
fight Alzheimer’s, a related human brain disease, says Kav. “Though I’m dreaming
a bit here,” he
adds.

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[Source: The Edmonton Journal]

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