This past spring Popular Science reported on the U.S. Federal Drug Administration's approval of a drug for humans that was produced in genetically engineered plant cells. The drug, called Elelyso, is used to treat a disorder known as Gaucher disease which results from the lack of a specific enzyme.
The earlier treatment for Gaucher disease was derived from hamster cells. According to the article at Popular Science, engineers at Israeli biotech firm Protalix Biotherapeutics discovered how to grow the enzyme in carrots cells by inserting a specific gene into them that encoded for this human enzyme. Subjects that received the "bio-pharmed" version of the enzyme reportedly showed improvement comparable to that of subjects who had been given the treatment derived from hamster cells.The FDA's acceptance of a plant-derived biologic treatment could one day put an end to the use of genetically modified livestock as drug factories. On the other hand, it looks like the Right to Know fight may one day extend from our pantries to our medicine cabinets.
Would you accept medicine produced in genetically engineered plant cells if it meant an end to using livestock as drug factories?