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What do lettuce, carrots, soybeans, and vaccines have in common? Not much, until now: a team of engineers at MIT have figured out a way to introduce DNA nanoparticles into the chloroplasts of living plants, which has never been done before. Tedrick Thomas Salim Lew, Ph.D., is a member of this team of engineers, and he joins the podcast to discuss why this is so significant, explaining that chloroplasts have previously been impenetrable by any type of material due to the double plasma membrane.

As the site of photosynthesis, having the ability to introduce genetic material into the chloroplast will allow for the chloroplast genome to be modified in a variety of ways, resulting in higher protein production to protect against disease, more efficient use of nutrients, higher growth rates, and perhaps the most surprising of all…the production of human vaccines and hormones, such as the polio vaccine and insulin.

Dr. Tedrick Thomas Salim Lew explains why this method of genetic engineering is far superior to conventional methods, how it will allow for the elimination of costly purification steps in the development of vaccines, new findings in the use of CRISPR-Cas9 in plants and the benefits that this method confers, and where their research is heading.

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