The diseases are caused by viruses, tiny particles of genetic material wrapped in protein. When a virus attacks a cell, it injects its genetic material, which takes over and can kill the cell.
Fortunately, your disease-fighting immune system learn to recognize many viruses' protein coats and make antibodies to fight them off. That's where vaccines come in. Giving people small doses of a virus (not enough to make them sick) can prime the immune system to make antibodies.
But the vaccines most kids get in the United States are expensive -- $50 to $100 per child. Bananas containing vaccines would be much cheaper and easier to deliver to children throughout the world.
One vaccine-producing banana plant could grow more than 100 pounds of bananas! The bananas will be picked, peeled, and mashed into a puree like baby food. A spoonful of the stuff once or twice a year will prevent diseases. It would cost only a couple of cents to make each vaccine.
To make the banana vaccines, scientists inject an altered form of the virus into a banana sapling. The virus' genetic material becomes a permanent part of the plant's cells. As the plant grows, its cells produce the virus proteins, but not the infectious part of the virus.
After eating a bite of banana -- full of the virus proteins -- the person's immune system builds up antibodies and is ready to fight off the real disease.
If all goes well, a few years from now edible vaccines will be ready to peel around the world.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||genetic scientists work on developing bananas that produce virus proteins and act as vaccines|
|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Jan 10, 1997|
|Previous Article:||Mineral mania; scientists crack the case of a masquerading, true-blue mineral.|
|Next Article:||Year 2000 deleted!|