Rivoluzione e reazione nella biofarmaceutica

STANFORD – Ricavare medicinali dalle piante non è cosa nuova. L’Aspirina è stata inizialmente isolata dalla corteccia del salice nel diciottesimo secolo. E molti altri comuni prodotti farmaceutici, tra cui morfina, codeina e l’integratore di fibra Metamucil, vengono purificati dalle piante di tutto il mondo.

Più recentemente, gli scienziati hanno sviluppato tecniche in grado di portare questo processo un passo avanti, mediante l’uso dell’ingegneria genetica per introdurre colture agricole in grado di sintetizzare prodotti farmaceutiche di alto valore. Nota come “biofarmaceutica”, la grande promessa di questa tecnologia è emersa circa 15 anni fa, con sperimentazioni cliniche di vaccini e farmaci prodotti in banane, pomodori e tabacco. Sfortunatamente, il progresso da allora è in fase di stallo, a causa della forte avversione al rischio degli enti di vigilanza.

Uno dei primi esempi di biofarmaceutica è stata la produzione da parte della società biotech Ventria Bioscience di riso contenente due proteine umane, lattoferrina e lisozima. Una volta coltivato e raccolto, il riso grezzo viene trattato per estrarre e purificare le proteine da utilizzare in soluzioni orali di reidratazione per il trattamento della diarrea, che è superata solo dalle patologie respiratorie come principale malattia infettiva mortale dei bambini al di sotto dei cinque anni nei Paesi in via di sviluppo.

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