Potatoes Sought For Medicinal Uses

Published online: May 09, 2003
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New Zealand’s Crop and Food Research Institute has formed a joint venture with Singapore Polytechnic to use potatoes to produce high-value medical protein.

The proteins include one that helps the body repair itself after heart or circulatory system surgery or nervous diseases.

The researchers have synthesized a gene based on mammalian proteins and inserted it into the potatoes allowing the hormone to be produced on a large scale.

“We are using very complex proteins which could not function in such primitive systems as bacteria,” Crop and Food scientist Tony Conner, said.

“You probably need a plant or higher organism to make them. They could be synthesized artificially but at huge costs.”

It takes about seven potato plants to extract a gram of the protein that is worth more than NZ$1 million.

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