Life Saving Lettuce

by Zachary Richards, Economics major

When thinking about food and health, most people begin to think about fruits, vegetables, organics, and other healthy eating habits.  However, there is a new technology being developed that could allow food, specifically lettuce, to be even more beneficial to your health.  This technology is plant based vaccine, and it could revolutionize the way a vaccine is supplied.

Nicknamed green vaccines, they have been undergoing testing for years to perfect the production process.  The vaccine is essentially injected into the genome of the plant allowing the plant to produce vaccines. (as a note: the vaccines will help prevent someone from getting a disease, but it doesn’t cure it if the person gets the disease)   The lettuce plants are grown to maturity, and they are eventually freeze-dried, powdered, and inserted into capsules that allow them to be ingested easily.

The concept may seem interesting, but what really is the added benefit of this type of vaccination?  Supposedly, this process should allow for much cheaper creating, distribution, and sale of cures of a variety of diseases.  The process of producing these plants is much cheaper than current methods, and the process is being continually refined so it should become even cheaper in the future.

Henry Daniell, the head of the project at Penn, has made it his life work to find unique ways to deliver drugs and vaccinations to the human body.  He wants drugs and vaccines to become cheaper for everyone, saying, “To me, there is something morally not right about that. If you have something that saves lives, you have an obligation to make it available to everyone.”  His hope is that this lettuce consumption method of vaccination will help this idea become a reality, and I sincerely hope it does.

Read More
Delivering Drugs With Plants, Penn’s Henry Daniell Aims to Save Lives
> Penn State News

This blog post was an assignment for  Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.

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