S. Kumar research on artemisinin and effective malaria treatment


The article entitled “Compartmentalized Metabolic Engineering for Artemisinin Biosynthesis and Effective Malaria Treatment by Oral Delivery of Plant Cells" has received worldwide interest. Artemisinin is highly effective against drug-resistant malarial parasites, which affects nearly half of the global population and kills >500 000 people each year. The primary cost of artemisinin is the very expensive process used to extract and purify the drug from Artemisia annua. Elimination of this apparently unnecessary step will make this potent antimalarial drug affordable to the global population living in endemic regions.

In Molecular Plant, S. Kumar and Group reported the oral delivery of a non-protein drug artemisinin biosynthesized (∼0.8 mg/g dry weight) at clinically meaningful levels in tobacco by engineering two metabolic pathways targeted to three different cellular compartments (chloroplast, nucleus, and mitochondria). The doubly transgenic lines showed a three-fold enhancement of isopentenyl pyrophosphate, and targeting AACPR, DBR2, and CYP71AV1 to chloroplasts resulted in higher expression and an efficient photo-oxidation of dihydroartemisinic acid to artemisinin. Partially purified extracts from the leaves of transgenic tobacco plants inhibited in vitro growth progression of Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cells. Oral feeding of whole intact plant cells bioencapsulating the artemisinin reduced the parasitemia levels in challenged mice in comparison with commercial drug. Such novel synergistic approaches should facilitate low-cost production and delivery of artemisinin and other drugs through metabolic engineering of edible plants.

Press Releases

Molecular Plant: Compartmentalised Metabolic Engineering for Artemisinin Biosynthesis and Effective Malaria Treatment by Oral Delivery of Plant Cells, Vol. 9, issue 11 p1464-1477 [PubMed link]

20 October 2016
The Economist: Growing anti-malaria drugs in tobacco plants

Voice of America: Tobacco Plants Found Capable of Producing Malaria Drug

21 October 2016
NewsGram: Tobacco Plants Capable of Producing "Artemisinin" an anti-Malaria Drug: Scientists

6 November 2016
YouTube: Science Monitor

11 November 2016
The Economist Times: Research required before low nicotine tobacco adoption

Eureka AAAS: Tobacco plants engineering to manufacture high yields of malaria drug

Voice of America: Science & Health: Tobacco Plants Found Capable of Producing Malaria Drug

UC News: Tobacco Plant Found Capable of Producing Malaria Drug

GE Reports:5 coolest things on earth this week: Bioengineerd salad could help us treat malaria one day

27 November 2016
Age Times: Growing anti-malaria drugs in tobacco plants

Cell Press: R&D Tobacco Plants Engineered to Manufacture High Yields of Malaria Drug

Phys.Org: Tobacco plants engineered to manufacture high yields of malaria drug

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