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Plants as Factories for Human Pharmaceuticals: Applications and Challenges

Emergency Department, The Affiliated Hospital of Qingdao University, Qingdao 266003, China
Department of Natural Sciences Northeastern State University at Broken Arrow, Broken Arrow, OK 74014, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Chang Won Choi
Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2015, 16(12), 28549-28565;
Received: 19 September 2015 / Revised: 18 November 2015 / Accepted: 23 November 2015 / Published: 2 December 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Plant-Derived Pharmaceuticals by Molecular Farming 2016)
PDF [932 KB, uploaded 2 December 2015]


Plant molecular farming (PMF), defined as the practice of using plants to produce human therapeutic proteins, has received worldwide interest. PMF has grown and advanced considerably over the past two decades. A number of therapeutic proteins have been produced in plants, some of which have been through pre-clinical or clinical trials and are close to commercialization. Plants have the potential to mass-produce pharmaceutical products with less cost than traditional methods. Tobacco-derived antibodies have been tested and used to combat the Ebola outbreak in Africa. Genetically engineered immunoadhesin (DPP4-Fc) produced in green plants has been shown to be able to bind to MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), preventing the virus from infecting lung cells. Biosafety concerns (such as pollen contamination and immunogenicity of plant-specific glycans) and costly downstream extraction and purification requirements, however, have hampered PMF production from moving from the laboratory to industrial application. In this review, the challenges and opportunities of PMF are discussed. Topics addressed include; transformation and expression systems, plant bioreactors, safety concerns, and various opportunities to produce topical applications and health supplements. View Full-Text
Keywords: plant molecular farming; edible vaccine; humanized glycan; transient expression; seed platform plant molecular farming; edible vaccine; humanized glycan; transient expression; seed platform

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Yao, J.; Weng, Y.; Dickey, A.; Wang, K.Y. Plants as Factories for Human Pharmaceuticals: Applications and Challenges. Int. J. Mol. Sci. 2015, 16, 28549-28565.

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