Pigs, people may soon eat their way to flu resistance, say researchers

Apr 30, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A team of researchers from Iowa State University is putting flu vaccines into the genetic makeup of corn, which may someday allow pigs and humans to get a flu vaccination simply by eating corn or corn products.

"We're trying to figure out which genes from the virus to incorporate into so those genes, when expressed, would produce protein. When the pig consumes that corn, it would serve as a vaccine," said Hank Harris, professor in animal science and one of the researchers on the project.

The project is a collaborative effort with Harris and Brad Bosworth, an affiliate associate professor of animal science working with pigs, and Kan Wang, a professor in agronomy, who is developing the vaccine traits in the corn.

The corn vaccine would also work in humans when they eat corn or even corn flakes, corn chips, tortillas or anything that contains corn, said Harris.

The research is funded by a grant from Iowa State University's Plant Sciences Institute, and is their Biopharmaceuticals and Bioindustrials Research Initiative.

The corn vaccine may be possible in 5 to 7 years if research goes well. Meanwhile, the team is trying to speed up the process.

"While we're waiting for Wang to produce the corn, we are starting initial experiments in mice to show that the vaccine might induce an immune response," said Bosworth.

Harris says the team still needs more answers.

"The big question is whether or not these genes will work when given orally through corn," said Harris. "That is the thing we've still got to determine."

One of the advantages to the corn vaccine is stability and safety.

Once the corn with the vaccine is grown, it can be stored for long term without losing its potency, say the researchers. If a virus breaks out, the corn could be shipped to the location to try to vaccinate animals and humans in the area quickly. Because corn grain is used as food and feed, there is no need for extensive vaccine purification, which can be an expensive process.

Traditional vaccines are made from animal culture or eggs that are in liquid form and last only 1 to 2 years.

The current outbreak of swine flu is affecting humans and has never been identified in pigs. If this swine flu crosses over into pigs, the scientists are hopeful that the corn vaccine would be effective to vaccinate uninfected pigs.

Provided by Iowa State University (news : web)

Explore further: Sex chromosomes—why the Y genes matter

Related Stories

Improving swine waste fertilizer

Jul 08, 2008

Swine production generates large amounts of waste. While this waste contains nutrients that may serve as fertilizer when applied to agricultural fields, the ratio of nutrients in the waste is different than what a crop requires.

Turning corn fiber into ethanol

Jun 01, 2006

Tony Pometto held up a laboratory flask swimming with little balls of mold. This, said the Iowa State University professor of food science and human nutrition, is the kind of fungus that Iowa State researchers have used to ...

Fingerprinting fake coffee

Sep 03, 2007

With prices of gourmet coffee approaching sticker-shock levels, scientists in Illinois are reporting development of a method to “fingerprint” coffee to detect when corn has been mixed in to short-change customers. Their ...

Recommended for you

Sex chromosomes—why the Y genes matter

40 minutes ago

Several genes have been lost from the Y chromosome in humans and other mammals, according to research published in the open access journal Genome Biology. The study shows that essential Y genes are rescue ...

Better mouse model enables colon cancer research

14 hours ago

Every day, it seems, someone in some lab is "curing cancer." Well, it's easy to kill cancer cells in a lab, but in a human, it's a lot more complicated, which is why nearly all cancer drugs fail clinical ...

How to get high-quality RNA from chemically complex plants

May 26, 2015

Ask any molecular plant biologist about RNA extractions and you might just open up the floodgates to the woes of troubleshooting. RNA extraction is a notoriously tricky and sensitive lab procedure. New protocols out of the ...

Plant fertility—how hormones get around

May 26, 2015

Researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology have identified a transporter protein at the heart of a number of plant processes associated with fertility and possibly aging.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.