We have been talking for so many years about all the negative consequences of tobacco that we forget that it is a plant and like many plants, it may have positive effects. With new and innovative technologies tobacco might just start to look brighter for us.
With high-quality agricultural technologies, scientists have been able to transform tobacco plants, and in particular Nicotiana Benthamiana, into a bio-factory and produce tailor-made molecules for health-related products.
Benthamiana is an ancient tobacco plant native to Australia, widely used for the production of vaccines and antibodies, including those to fight Ebola. By adding DNA information into the tobacco plant leaves, it improves the ability to produce a large number of specific pharmaceutical products.
A platform for future production
Using this technique, the plant could be used as a platform for future production of Covid-19 vaccines through its cells and sap, to produce, for example, particles that look like a particular virus.
The name of the project is Newcotiana, a research project that brings together an international team of scientists coordinated by the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology of Plants in Valencia, Spain.
A Tobacco plant is capable of generating proteins similar to those developed in a human cell. This is key for researchers, as the proteins act as a gateway to a human antibodies
The benefits of tobacco plants
According to Professor Giuliano, Director of Research at the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Development (ENEA), a growing number of companies are adopting this technique.
To help in the fight against the coronavirus, researchers have decided to share the plant's genome with public and private laboratories developing Covid-19 vaccines and diagnostic reagents.