By Michelle Fabio
Researchers at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies in Irapuato, Mexico have reported that they have successfully produced transgenic tomato plants that produce an HIV protein called Tat, which is normally produced soon after infection with the HIV virus; the Tat protein allows the virus to replicate in host cells as well as infect new cells.
As the presence of anti-Tat antibodies have shown to stop the progression of AIDS, scientists are seeking to develop a vaccine based on the protein.
Dr. Miguel Angel Gomez Lim and his team in Mexico chose tomatoes over tobacco plants because of the toxic alkaloids found in tobacco.
The transgenic tomatoes, while successfully producing the Tat protein, flowered, ripened, and possessed leaves similar to those of their natural counterparts; they did not, however, produce seeds that would enable to pass on genetic information to other plants.
After testing in mice, it was shown that the Tat protein produced by the transgenic tomatoes showed a strong immune response, signifying a good vaccine.
Research, of course, continues.