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Vegetables that protect you from infections: University of Shizuoka researchers create antibody-producing plant

University of Shizuoka researchers have succeeded in creating a plant that produces antibodies. These antibodies can protect against infection when the plant is eaten. The research was published in the international academic journal PLOS ONE on 28 November 2013. The lead author of the report is doctoral student Katsuhiro Nakanishi of the Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences (now the Graduate School of Integrated Pharmaceutical and Nutritional Sciences).

The project has succeeded in inducing the plant Arabidopsis thaliana to produce immunoglobulin A, an antibody that fights toxins such as the verotoxin made by the bacteria Shigella and E. coli O157:H7. The antibody attacks these toxins, which are found on the surface of the human intestine, by binding to them and then detoxifying them.

This research project is the result of a collaboration between Prof. Yasuyuki Imai of the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Prof. Hirokazu Kobayashi of the School of Food and Nutritional Sciences. It represents the culmination of a decade-long effort at the University of Shizuoka to combine the areas of pharmaceutical science and food-nutritional science, which resulted in the establishment of the Graduate School of Integrated Pharmaceutical and Nutritional Sciences in April 2012. The creation of this unique educational program began 11 years ago when the university was awarded a 21st Century Center of Excellence Program grant, followed 5 years later by a Global Center of Excellence Program grant. In pursing this integrated pharmaceutical-food science research, we have adopted as a central pillar of the program the use of plants to create antibody drugs and advanced functional foods.

Research on "plant antibodies" is now a highly active area of research worldwide. The research being carried out at the University of Shizuoka is expected to be applied to efforts at preventing the transmission of pathogens such as influenza and pneumonia that invade the body through its mucous membranes.

Bibliographic information: PLOS ONE 8(11): e80712. doi:10.1371/
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Written by Philip Hawke