Hepatitis Potato

I just found out about the potato hepatitis B vaccine in a odd way. Solid info from the BBC “An edible vaccine against the deadly liver disease hepatitis B may have been developed by scientists in the US.

Chunks of genetically modified potato may be enough to give immunity without the need for an injection, they hope. ” However “‘
They have not cracked it yet, but it is very exciting’
Professor Graham Foster, consultant hepatologist at the Queen Mary University of London”

I found out about this at unfogged between a story about a very unfortunate cat and a photoshoped image of Donald Yodafeld. Ah the internet.

I happen to be a fanatical supporter of genetically modified foods and have been for decades (that is since they were an idea not a meal). I consider civil disobedience whenever I drive the two kilometers to Grottaferata (comune anti-transgenico).

The potato does seem a bit hyped (as gently noted by Foster) but vaccine producing plants are likely to be seriously useful.

I would also mention IgA a class of antibodies which is absorbed when eaten. Milk contains IgA which is absorbed by infants. This is one of the important reasons that breast feeding is better than pure bottle feeding even in developed countries with safe drinking water and where people can afford formula.

It seems to me that modifying plants to produce human IgA would have its advantages, since, as mentioned above, IgA is absorbed before it is digested.
Also a vaccine with a hybrid IgA-antigen hybrid protein might work better than simple antigen.

The result of Dr Yasmin Thanavala and colleagues does remind us that genetically modified foods can, in theory, be allergenic even if the unmodified plants are not. It is good to be allergic to hepatitis B, but the principal has been proven (again).

By the way, anyone know whatever happened to golden rice ? I don’t think anyone is actually eating any.

Correction: I was totally wrong when I wrote “I would also mention IgA a class of antibodies which is absorbed when eaten. Milk contains IgA which is absorbed by infants.” Milk does contain IgA but it is not absorbed. The clas of antibodies which is absorbed is IgG not IgA. My father explained this to me. Also, although baby rats definitely absorb IgG, even he is not sure baby people do (different mammels defnitely differ in which proteins they digest and which they absorb). Thus my idea might just be a good way to vaccinate rats.


4 thoughts on “Hepatitis Potato

  1. Your genetically-modified potato may be an example of research on the much-reviled but highly-studied tobacco plant paying off. They’re pretty closely related members of the Nightshade family (Solanaceae).

  2. Last I’d seen golden rice looked more and more like boondoggle- you needed to eat pounds of it to get enough beta caratine to do any good, and you couldn’t process it unless you had enough fat in your diet, but if you had enough money to get enough fat in your diet, you didn’t need golden rice, which is also tastes bad, to get the beta caretine. As one critic has rightly pointed out, the problem this was meant to solve was the peoplpe were not getting the vitimines they needed. But that’s not becuase rice has few vitimens, but becuase the poor folks it’s aimed at eat only rice. Why not work on getting them some better food, rather than wastine money golden rice?

  3. A huge fraction of basic plant cellular and molecular biology work was done with the dread tobacco. It’s one tough plant. Moving on to grasses like maize was seriously hard.

    I don’t think golden rice is a complete boondoggle. There is a difference between the amount you have to eat to get the RDA (pounds) and the amount which will do a lot of good. The need for oils or fat to disolve the beta carotene is also an important problem.

    I too worry about whter people will accept some funny yellow rice (I don’t know about the taste). Sad to say, I would geuss it would be easier to help people with vitamin A defficiency by convincing them to grow and eat carrots.

    My reading is that the hepatitis potato isn’t really there yet either.

    Still I am personally sure that a really useful gm plant is just around the corner (as I said I am a fanatic).

Comments are closed.