LONDON, Ontario—Plant-made pharmaceutical production has been studied extensively over the past few decades, but the ability to transmit therapeutics through the ingestion of these same plants is less well understood. Recently, researchers at Agriculture Canada, Plantigen and several academic centers examined the use of low-alkaloid tobacco as a delivery vehicle for anti-inflammatory cytokines in a mouse model of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
As they reported in the Plant Biotechnology Journal, the researchers developed a transgenic strain of tobacco that both expressed human IL-10, a cytokine used to ameliorate inflammation, and exhibited diminished levels of alkaloids like nicotine. They then fed tobacco-laced chow to mice and looked at how well the mice tolerated the tobacco product and its impact on inflammatory response.
The researchers found that the low-alkaloid tobacco had no impact on general mouse viability. They also noted that not only did the recombinant IL-10 survive transit through the digestive tract, but it triggered decrease expression of TNF-α, an inflammatory cytokine, and generally improved gut histology.