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Crop Biotech Update

Hepatitis B Vaccine from Transgenic Rice

September 28, 2007

Hepatitis B ranks among the most severe chronic diseases in the world, especially in tropical parts of Africa and in South-East Asia. Although commercial recombinant vaccines are available, the expense of current immunization programs limits their use in developing countries. A group of Chinese scientists has developed a transgenic rice line expressing a modified protein, which could be a promising candidate as an alternative hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccine. Rice was chosen as the carrier crop because it is a staple food for many developing countries.

The SS1gene, coding for an HBV surface antigen, was introduced in rice via Agrobacterium-mediated transformation. The production of antibodies against the protein coded by the SS1 gene provides protection against hepatitis infection by preventing the virus from binding to liver cells. The SS1 protein was shown to induce immunological responses against viral surface proteins in mice, suggesting that that this rice-derived recombinant protein could be developed as an alternative oral vaccine for preventing hepatitis infection in humans.

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