For thousands of years, society has been brought to the brink of disaster thanks to the spread of resilient diseases and the plague of hardy viruses. However, humans have been aware for just as long of medicinal defence mechanisms against these ailments. The ancient Egyptians and Romans, as well as the primitive islander and Aboriginal communities, knew that certain herbaceous matter could help heal the wounded and sick. In more recent times, mankind has discovered that not only do some plants have the ability to aid in the relief of symptoms associated with illness; they also contain preventative properties which are being used in the development and production of vaccines. This has been a huge innovation and has greatly broadened the field of interest in the botany science industry as we continue to learn more about how plants could have such a profound effect on the medical industry.
Scientists have been investigating using “transgenic plants”, as they are known, as production systems for vaccines for the past 15 years. These plants secrete an antigen with a measureable immune response protein, whose origin has been isolated at the genetic level. This genetic information has then been able to be replicated and inserted into genetically modified plants in order to produce a plant with the capability of producing higher levels of the antigen for harvest. Traditionally, vaccines are prepared using a version of a disease or pathogen which has been modified by inactivating the disease-causing part of the gene and administering it to organisms in sufficient quantity to induce an immune response. With this new technology, the antigen which induces the immune response has already been generated by a transgenic plant, and would be used as the vaccine product, thus eliminating many risks associated with the traditional method.
There have been 4 major milestones in the advancement of plant-derived vaccines over