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"Pharmed" Vaccine Passes Early Test

"Pharmed" vaccine passes early test: A team of researchers has completed human tests of the first plant-produced vaccine for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The successful results of a phase I clinical trial suggest that plants could provide a safe, inexpensive reservoir to "grow" vaccines for the common human cancer, according to a study published tomorrow (July 22) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
http://www.the-scientist.com/templates/trackable/display/blog.jsp? type=blog&o_url=blog/display/54844&id=54844

Allergen-free GM plants may boost food safety: Advances in the field of genetic engineering may produce plants with little or no allergens, but there are limits to this approach, say Australian researchers. Genetic modification of plants and crops has long been touted as a means of
producing hypoallergenic foods, but real progress in this area is limited by overcoming the "essential requirement for some of the major allergenic proteins for normal plant function," wrote Mohan Singh and Prem Bhalla from the University of Melbourne.

Super-Tobacco Sees Red at Land Mines: Scientists from the University of Stellenbosch have teamed up with Danish biotechnology firm Aresa to test a genetically engineered tobacco plant that turns red when it grows near land mines, offering hope of a cheap way to help clear fields in post-conflict zones. More than 80 countries are affected by land mines. Angola, Afghanistan, Burundi, Bosnia- Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chechnya, Colombia, Iraq, Nepal and Sri Lanka are worst affected.

Countering Insect Resistance with Designer Bt Toxins: Toxins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) kill some key agricultural pests, but cause little or no harm to people, wildlife, and even most other insects, including the natural enemies of pests. For decades, Bt toxins were used successfully in organic and mainstream agriculture. Widespread exposure to Bt toxins, however, increases the chances that pests will adapt and evolve resistance - just as pests have evolved resistance to conventional insecticides. With funding from Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service (CSREES), researchers in Arizona and Mexico have collaborated to design, create and test genetically-modified Bt toxins that kill insects resistant to standard Bt toxins.

Bioengineered apples, bananas may be next in line: A nonbrowning apple variety and a disease-resistant banana may be the next commodities to test consumer acceptance of biotechnology in fresh produce. The U.S. has more than 144 million acres of biotech crops under cultivation, but virtually none of that acreage is represented by crops grown for the fresh produce market. In contrast, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported this year that 80% of the nation's field corn crop and 92% of
soybeans were biotech varieties. The slow development in biotechnology for fresh produce has been rooted in caution about consumer attitudes. The genetically engineered Flavr Savr tomato was unveiled in 1992 but ran aground amid activist resistance, prolonged regulatory reviews and
lukewarm market acceptance.

GM Papaya with Improved Resistance to Mites: Researchers at the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center and the USDA-ARS Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center have reported that a transgenic papaya with a snowdrop lectin (Galanthus nivalis agglutin [GNA]) gene exhibited improved
resistance to carmine spider mites (Tetranychus cinnabarinus). Lectins are naturally occurring proteins that typically bind to carbohydrates and are found in plants, animals, bacteria and fungi. Heather McCafferty and colleagues transformed the commercial papaya cultivar Kapoho which
is highly susceptible to mites. The group used the biolistic transformation method to introduce a plasmid containing the GNA DNA to embryogenic calli. Laboratory assay indicated the total reproductive capacity of mites feeding on leaves of the transgenic lines was significantly different and about three times less in the transformed lines. The researchers noted that mites were also found to spend less time feeding on leaves of the transgenics and this mite feeding behavior may be as significant as the insecticidal activity of the protein. McCafferty and colleagues plan to further conduct experiments to test the resistance of the transgenic papaya plants to other pathogens and
determine the impact of GNA-expressing papayas on the flora and fauna found in Hawaii. The paper is available at the Plant Science journal website at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.plantsci.2008.05.007

Pepper Gene Enhances Potato Stress Tolerance: The gaseous phytohormone ethylene exerts its effect in plant development and growth by regulating the transcription of certain plant genes. The hormone interacts with ERFs (ethylene responsive factors), a group of DNA binding proteins that
modulate the expression of several stress-inducible genes. Arabidopsis ERF genes have been shown to play important roles in plant defense response. However, little is known about the functional significance of ERF genes in important crops such as wheat, maize and potato.Scientists from the Plant Genome Research Center and Seoul National University in Korea showed that overexpression of the pepper ERF gene CaPF1 effectively enhanced tolerance to freezing, heat, heavy metal, and
oxidative stress in potatoes. The team also observed that CaPF1 was involved in tuber formation. Microtuber formation was significantly retarded in lines overexpressing the transgene. The results of the study suggest that future research using various transcription factors, particularly ethylene responsive factors, to improve stress tolerance in potato may result in development of high-yielding crops.