Why You Really Need To Start Eating Your Greens
An apple a day might actually keep the doctor away.
What you need to know
- Bio-drugs could be the future to cheap and effective medicine.
- Altering the DNA of plants can give them medicinal properties.
Australian scientists are developing new ways of using plants for medicinal purposes and, before you get too excited, this is not a story about marijuana.
But, you should still be pretty excited because genetically modified plants could be the key to creating effective and cheap medicines to treat a range of diseases, including HIV, obesity, cardiovascular disease and even cancer.
Professor David Craik from the University of Queensland and Professor Marilyn Anderson from La Trobe University have discovered peptides in plants called cyclotides. And, no, they're not for Essendon footballers. They're used to alter and splice into plant DNA to make bio-drugs that you can take orally. If that was too confusing, basically they’re making plants that are themselves edible medicine.
The professors have been working on this for about 25 years, but recent breakthroughs mean that they might not be that far off human trials. The ultimate goal is to turn plants like lettuce, canola and green beans into medicine, so all you’d have to do is eat them or brew them up in a tea to get the medicinal benefits. It’s an ingenious idea, let’s just hope they don’t waste too much time making broccoli medicinal. Even if broccoli could cure disease, nobody is eating broccoli.
The developments are pretty much fueled by irony. Basically, we could soon have re-engineered potatoes so that hot chips could cure obesity. Or even tobacco being altered to treat lung cancer. All we need now is vape that cures you of looking like a wanker.
Though they’re hoping to commence human trials in the next few years, they can be extremely expensive and time-consuming, with Professor Craik estimating it could take about 10 years and cost $2 billion USD. That cost would likely triple if they tried re-engineering avocados.
So, if this does become a reality, get ready for a lot of very smug vegetarians.