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Crop Biotech Update

Plant Viruses Found to Potentially Treat Diabetes, Arthritis

May 20, 2020

An Italian research team investigated the design and synthesis of plant virus nanoparticles with peptides associated with diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Their goal is to re-engineer nanoparticles and unravel therapeutic benefits for both autoimmune diseases.

The scientific team is led by the University of Verona with the help of the John Innes Centre who developed constructs of the cowpea mosaic virus to target diabetes. Peptides were also inserted into the peptide sequence of the tomato bushy stunt virus to obtain the chimeric particles and use it against rheumatoid arthritis. Plant viruses are known to have self-assembling nanostructures with versatile and genetically programmable shells. Their virus nanoparticles (VNPs) can be programmed to incorporate sequences for specific functions.

The scientists were able to observe that VNPs have the potential to modulate immune system response. Using animal models to test the responses, they found out that the peptide-related mechanism in which the VNPs act as both scaffold and adjuvant have an overlapping mechanism of action, therefore supporting the idea that recombinant nanoparticles can prevent diabetes and improve arthritis. This is an opportunity for further research on plant viruses being used for the clinical treatment of human autoimmune diseases.

The full paper is published in Science Advances with reports from John Innes Centre.

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