First of the Month, and my First Persian White
Posted 31 October 2018 - 11:54 PM
Of course with my recent freeze finishing off the last of my stragglers gives life down under to some new blossoms! Good vibes to your poppies! May you have many blossoms that linger for more than a day, Lots of seeds and tea.
Posted 09 November 2018 - 08:27 PM
Anyone seen this?:
The botanist, the chemist, and the painkilling lettuce
In a special high-security glasshouse in Melbourne's east, racks upon racks of lettuce, canola, green beans and tobacco are growing.
Inside each plant’s leaves and seeds, a secret has been carefully tucked away.
These plants have been coaxed, using careful genetic manipulation, into growing painkillers and anti-cancer drugs.
The team behind them hope these "biofactories" could be cultivated in developing nations or remote communities, providing a cheap and plentiful source of powerful edible drugs.
“That dream is now possible,” says Professor Marilyn Anderson. “We can now get plants to make whatever we want.”
The plants are the harvest of one of the most fruitful friendships in Australian science. This 25-year relationship has taken two researchers to the cusp of realising their dream: plants filled with edible medicine.
In the 1960s, a Norwegian doctor on an relief mission to a village in the Congo noticed pregnant women experienced unusually quick labour after being given a tea made from the leaves of a local plant.
The doctor was amazed, and took some of the leaves back home with him to study. But their mystery proved too difficult to unpick, and they were left to languish on a shelf for about 30 years.
The chemist: Professor David Craik, in his lab at the University of Queensland.
In 1991, they turned up under the microscope of David Craik, then a young Australian molecular chemist studying at Oxford. He was fascinated by the leaves and their story. And the protein they contained, which he eventually isolated, was like no other he had seen.
It was very large, and that made it pharmaceutically powerful. It was resistant to heat and acid. It did not cause side effects in the body. Plants use it as a natural defence mechanism against predators, so it needed to be stable and tough.
And, uniquely, it was circular. Professor Craik decided to call it a cyclotide.
But the ambitious chemist wanted to do more than understand it: he immediately saw the protein's potential, if it could be modified to do other things.
Large-molecule drugs are naturally more powerful and have less side effects. But due to their size they must be given intravenously, which is tricky and expensive.
Cyclotides' unique circular shape make them acid and heat resistant, meaning a cyclotide-based drug could be simply swallowed by a patient.
That is, if you could make one. Professor Craik called Marilyn Anderson.
The pair had worked together a few years earlier. Both came off impressed with the other; she with his unassuming, almost shy nature that hid a sharp intellect, he with her extreme attention to detail and scientific rigour.
Professor Craik, who now works at the University of Queensland, recalls requesting a certain compound made from tobacco plants to study. Professor Anderson had 21,000 tobacco flowers painstakingly razored off for his lab.
“Anyone up for that, is someone I want to work with,” he says.
Working together to put chemicals inside plants was a natural choice he's a chemist, she's a botanist (and now biochemist).
“She’s one of Australia’s experts in plant molecular biology. I’m a chemist with very little biological expertise – so our expertise is completely complementary,” Professor Craik says.
Over the years, they and their families have become close, sharing regular dinners. When they both lived in Melbourne, Professor Craik would regularly catch the tram from his lab down Royal Parade to Professor Anderson's lab at the University of Melbourne (she's now at La Trobe University) to kick the tyres on their latest discoveries.
“It’s pretty unusual. We just seem to get on well together,” says Professor Anderson. “It’s like a long-distance relationship – we enjoy working with each other, we like each other’s ideas, and we complement each other well.”
Working together for 25 years, despite mainly living in different states, the pair have made gradual progress towards their shared goal.
First they proved they could grow their own cyclotide in a plant. Then they showed that cyclotide could be modified to become a painkiller or an anti-cancer drug.
Their painkiller is about 100 times more potent than morphine. “We have put that in the seeds of the plant,” says Professor Craik. “You could pop that, like a bio-pill, and that would be your painkiller.”
That dream is now possible. We can now get plants to make whatever we want.
Then they proved those drugs worked in animals. The next step is human trials. It usually takes, says Professor Craik, 12 years and about $2.5 billion in research funding to take a drug from trial to pharmacy.
But he’s 62, she’s 67. A great friendship is reaching its golden years.
“My dream is to get this into human trials,” says Professor Craik. “Before my career ends.”
"David and I have always paid attention to succession planning," adds Professor Anderson. "The project won't finish when we retire.
"And science isn't like other professions: you never really retire. People just love science so much; it's pretty hard to give it up."
Edited by coorsmikey, 30 November 2018 - 02:30 PM.
Added Content of link for long term integrity
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