Monday, April 9, 2018

A vaccine for edible plants? A new plant protection method on the horizon

        What would us humans do without cereal in the morning? Well, it would be very tough for cereal to be produced if the plants it was made from were heavily concentrated with pesticide. These plants can include barley, wheat, corn, rice, and oats. Ninety percent of American families have cereal in the morning so it would only be right for companies that handle pesticides to find an alternative option. Well, thankfully there is another option for this concern. "Plant diseases and pests cause considerable crop losses and threaten global food security. The diseases and pests have traditionally been fought with chemical pesticides, which spread throughout our environment and may be hazardous to human health, beneficial organism and the environment." 

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      Dr. Minna Poranen of the Molecular and Integrative Biosciences Research Programme at the University of Helsinki's Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences explains that "A new approach to plant protection involves vaccinating plants against pathogens with double-stranded RNA molecules that can be sprayed directly on the leaves." "The vaccine triggers a mechanism known as RNA interface. which is an innate defence mechanism of plants, animals and other eukaryotic organisms against pathogens. The vaccine can be targeted to the chosen pathogen by using RNA molecules which share sequence identity with the pest's genes and prevents their expression." Scientists and companies want the best possible outcome of an experiment and this is certainly likely due to this vaccine because "This means that the double-stranded RNA molecules do not affect the expression of genes in the protected plant, but only target the plant disease or pest. RNA is also a common molecule in nature that degrades rapidly rather than building up in the environment. " 

      All in all, Dr. Poranen says that " the challenge in developing RNA-based vaccines to protect plants has involved the production of RNA molecules. Double-stranded RNA molecules have been produced through chemical synthesis, both as drug molecules and for research purposes, but such production methods are inefficient and expensive for plant protection. As part of the Academy of Finland's Synthetic Biology Research Programme, Poranen's group has developed a new production method for double-stranded RNA molecules. Together with researchers at the CNRS, the group has demonstrated the efficacy of RNA-based vaccines produced using the new method against plant virus infections. The method utilises the RNA amplification system of a bacteriophage. This new method will enable the effective production of RNA-based vaccines and promote the development and adoption of RNA-based plant protection methods." 

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