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New technology to "grow" nutraceuticals/pharmaceuticals

18-May-2001

In a recent research, Rutgers University scientists have developed a way to use living plants to reliably and inexpensively manufacture biologically active compounds ranging from human insulin to cancer-fighting supplements.



A research group led by Rutgers Professor of Biology Ilya Raskin plans to partner with New Jersey farmers through Phytomedics, Inc., an American company, to grow plants for their therapeutic benefits rather than their food value. Phytomedics, Inc. is currently training selected New Jersey farmers to use the new technology.



Currently, therapeutic compounds to fight bacteria, fungi, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, HIV, and herpes are undergoing testing on animals. Others under study show promise as tools to combat baldness, high cholesterol levels, and Parkinson's disease, says Dr. Raskin.



The first product expected is a non-prescription anti-cancer food supplement made from a compound produced by winter cress, a leafy plant sometimes used in salads. As a non-prescription product, it will not be required to undergo the time-consuming federal approval process for prescription drugs.



The new technology re-connects ethical drugs with plants, their original source before synthetic drugs came to dominate the marketplace, notes Dr. Raskin. With this technology, the researchers have been able to turn plants into "pharmaceutical factories" that continuously supply therapeutic compounds by growing them in tightly controlled and regulated hydroponic greenhouses.


Source: Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

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