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    • Producing natural antibiotics in a plant factory
    • 2013.09.03
    • A major food source, a natural air cleaner, a fatigue restorative, what do they have in common?  All of them are plant nicknames. Plants became essential to human being. Recently, plant received attention as major source of pharmaceutical ingredient. This is due to development of bio-pharmaceutical drug technology using active ingredient from plant stem cells. It enabled the mass production of drug and the prices got significantly lower. As the ‘Plant Factory Era’ begins, people will have more healthier and affluent life.

      Plants are one of the major energy sources for humans. They are also major source of medicinal ingredients which can provide valuable biological active substances. Plus, certain plant components act on human body and it take important role in enzyme and hormone production.  In addition, it can combine with protein from disease to block pathogens to harm human body.
      We describe the boost given by the medicines as “strengthening the body immunity”. Therefore, extracting technique from plant active ingredients that are so closely act on human body health gotten a lot of attention recently in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products fields.

      The extraction technique of chemical components which are composed of intensive pure medicinal ingredients from plant came on the cutting edge of pharmaceutical technique.  The classical method of obtaining medicinal properties from plant is cultivating large amounts of the plant and then extracting the active ingredient. However, this method is very dependent on the cultivation environment, which can be polluted by heavy metals, agricultural pesticides, environmental toxins or other negative influences. Therefore, the best process is completely avoiding pollutant by organic cultivation to get the active ingredients from the plant.
      Therefore, to isolate the plants completely from pollution, hydroponic methods were created to cultivate plant in sterilized protected environments. Hydroponics creates an intensive, controlled environment for plant cell culture, in which the safety of the produced raw materials can be trusted irrespective of the season and biological period all year round. This is made possible by artificially creating the most suitable growth environment. 
       Era of ‘Plant Factory’ has begun by mass production of pharmaceutical products using the plant stem cells. It could be the alternative way of producing high value farm product under limited amount of available land by mass production of protein from the active ingredients of plants.
      Emergence of bio-pharmaceutical technologies by selecting active ingredients from plant stem cells
      Therefore, the recent use of plant stem cell separation techniques to isolate active ingredients in the bio-pharmaceutical technology area has emerged as an alternative to mass production cultivation. Unlike animal stem cells, plant stem cells have two different characteristics. One is plant stem cells have multi-potent ability to differentiate into all kinds of cells. The other is that plant stem cells can divide and renewing themselves for long time.
      Plant stem cells continue to make new cells within the tissue; therefore, unlike animal stem cells plants may not have an aging process.
      Plant stem cells with multi-potent ability can make and grow new tissue, and they are evenly distributed across the plant. So even after the external threat, they can make new cellular tissue again. This is the reason why by planting stem and root can become a plant not only the seed.
      A multi-potent plant stem cells, embedded in meristems located at the tips of shoots and roots or contained inside the vascular system. Unhwa developed an innately undifferentiated cell line derived from cambium cells and it consists of a few layers of narrow, elongated, and thin-walled cells.  In order to isolate these thin layers, physical or chemical treatment is required. But from these processes, stem cells get easily damaged and lost its’ function as stem cells. Therefore, it was very difficult to isolate or cultivate plant stem cells.
      However, in 2006, at the end of long research of Unhwa, a Korean domestic small and medium business, successfully developed technique to isolate multi-potent plant stem cells Unhwa also developed the technique to culture these isolated plant stem cells with nutrients in large scale bioreactor

      The first released product was called “Ddobyul”, which was massively produced from ginseng stem cells in bioreactor by selectively including the active ingredient. After the suspension culture stage in bioreactor, the cultured cells with active ingredients were filtered and dried, then became a final product form. For now, it is sale as a food supplement, but it has functions of boosting immunity and antiviral effect. In addition, isolated plant stem cell techniques were used for mass production many pharmaceutical active ingredients and developed more than 10 kinds of product including, anti-cancer drug ingredients, paclitaxel from yew, blood circulation improved ingredient from ginkgo, and antioxidant ingredients like pectin and lutein from tomato.
      In fall 2011, LG Household & Health Care Ltd launched five types of anti-aging products called “Isaknox X2D2 Original” derived from cultured plant stem cell cambium extract. This product can provide the moisture and nourishment of ageing skin using cultured plant stem cells extract. Thus mass production technique of plant stem cells for medicine and cosmetic products are now being pursued by most of pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies.
      Molecular Farming, opening era of ‘Plant Factory’
      Era of ‘Plant Factory’ has begun by mass production of pharmaceutical products using the plant stem cells. It could be the alternative way of producing high value farm product under limited amount of available land by mass production of protein from the active ingredients of plants.
      The plant molecular farming is the genetic engineering technique, which enable insertion of valuable genetic traits and express in plants in order to produce mass production of valuable protein (enzyme or vaccine). There is less risk of pathogen infection by using plant to make vaccine compare to using animal cells. Also, the culture conditions of plant are not very much precise; therefore it is easy and very economical for the production.
      In a similar way to H1N1, the plant can contain the recombinant protein composed of virus, bacteria antigen and antibody through gene transplantation. Since plant cells are not culturing by propagation way, there is no risk of environmental pollution unlike genetically modified plants.
      Now, plants became important intermediate to produce protein. Due to easy of DNA transformation, tobacco has been widely used as protein __EXPRESSION__ system, however, potato, ground cherry, tomato, carrot, spinach and alfalfa have been gradually used as oral vaccines or real pharmaceutical production research. Especially, the research of family of leguminous plants, which contains more protein that any other plant, looked very promising.
       Now, agriculture is no longer devoted only to produce food crops. Many bio-medical firms are now developing plant factories. People, who are engaged in agriculture, can become biotechnology industry practitioners by cultivating crops for disease treatment. Now it is possible to add human protein genes to agricultural crops and extracting therapeutic substances. The time, which can treat diseases just by eating hydroponic plats like potato or sweet potato from plant factories, is approaching to reality.