Révolution et réaction dans l’agriculture pharmaco-moléculaire

STANFORD – Obtenir des médicaments à partir de plantes n’a rien de nouveau. L’aspirine a été isolée dans l’écorce du saule au XVIIIe siècle. Et plusieurs autres produits pharmaceutiques courants, dont la morphine, la codéine, et le supplément de fibres alimentaires Metamucil, sont extraits et purifiés à partir de plantes.

Plus récemment, les scientifiques ont grâce à de nouvelles techniques fait franchir un nouveau pas à ce processus, en utilisant le génie génétique pour inciter des cultures à synthétiser des substances pharmaceutiques de grande valeur. Connue sous le nom d’agriculture pharmaco-moléculaire, cette technologie porteuse de grandes promesses est apparue il y a 15 ans, avec des essais cliniques de vaccins et de médicaments produits à partir de bananes, de tomates et de tabac. Les progrès en sont malheureusement aujourd’hui au point mort à cause de l’aversion au risque marquée des autorités de réglementation.

L’un des premiers exemples d’agriculture pharmaco-moléculaire était la production par l’entreprise de biotechnologie Ventria Bioscience d’un riz contenant deux protéines humaines, la lactoferrine et le lysozyme. Une fois récoltés, les grains de riz sont traités pour extraire les protéines qui seront ajoutées à une solution de réhydratation orale utilisée pour soigner la diarrhée, deuxième cause de mortalité,  après les maladies respiratoires, des enfants de moins de cinq ans dans les pays en développement.

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