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Crop Biotech Update

GM Tobacco Produces Antibodies for Possible Rabies Treatment

February 6, 2013

A new research reports that scientists have produced a monoclonal antibody in genetically modified (GM) tobacco plants that can neutralize the rabies virus. This new antibody prevents the virus from traveling to the brain and from attaching to nerve endings around the bite site.

A group of scientists from the Hotung Molecular Immunology Unit at St. George's University of London led by Leonard Both "humanized" the antibody sequences so people can tolerate it. The antibody was then produced from purifying GM tobacco leaves, and is active in neutralizing a broad panel of rabies viruses.

According to Both, untreated virus infection is nearly 100 percent fatal, but producing an inexpensive antibody using GM plants makes rabies prevention possible, especially for low income families in developing countries.

The report appears in the January edition of the FASEB Journal, published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB).

The abstract is available at http://www.fasebj.org/content/early/2013/01/31/fj.12-219964.abstract.