Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are testing a plant-produced, therapeutic protein, which thwarts bacteria that cause inflammatory udder disease in dairy cows. They turned a laboratory-produced plant virus into a delivery vehicle that carries a specific gene. The target gene expresses large quantities of a protein called CD14. When the virus reproduces itself inside plant cells, it generates CD14.
The researchers designed the virus to use the plant as a patent-pending “biofactory” that rapidly accumulates usable quantities of the therapeutic CD14 protein. A tagging system—which the researchers built into the technology—allows high levels of the CD14 protein to be harvested from mashed leaves. Potentially, fifty plants could provide enough purified protein to treat a herd of 500 cows.
In the ARS photo, plant pathologist Rosemarie Hammond and molecular biologist Lev Nemchinov (right) point out to molecular biologist Dante Zarlenga the virus symptoms on a plant containing the CD14 gene.