Tobacco Use No Longer Up in Smoke
Posted September 18, 2000
Over the past few decades, the United States has put much effort into becoming a non-smoking society. Many businesses are instituting a smoke-free work place environment. Laws have
been passed in some states that make it illegal to smoke in public areas. Many of these decisions have been based on medical evidence that indicates the harmful effects of smoking to
In the wake of this non-smoking frenzy in America, there has been a casualty - the tobacco farmer. Once a huge industry, tobacco farming has become less and less a
profitable venture. A tobacco farmer can no longer consider his or her job to be in the best interest of the public. Many tobacco farmers have been considering halting the production
of tobacco on their farms altogether.
Human Protein C
Science, however, has begun to turn tobacco plants into beneficial disease fighting agents. New studies have determined that tobacco farmers may have a new use for their product
- genetic research. Scientists at Virginia Tech University have found that the tobacco plant has genes that are relatively easy to alter.
Researchers have spliced new genes that produce certain proteins into the existing genes of the tobacco plant. One of the proteins now being generated by these tobacco
plants is "human protein C." This protein is a chemical in human blood that reduces blood clots. It can be used in the treatment of many diseases, including HIV and cervical
After growing the genetically altered plants, the leaves are plucked and chopped up in a huge shredder. This action turns on the gene, and during the next day, the
genes start producing human protein C at an amazing rate.
This would not be the first time that scientists have used other forms of life to develop human proteins. For example, people with diabetes must take the protein insulin
on a daily basis. At one time, insulin was only available from cows. After advancements in genetic research, scientists were able to splice insulin-producing genes into certain bacteria.
Soon, insulin could be generated by the gallon from these vats of bacteria.
The use of this new protein may not be fully developed for another three years. However, it does show that tobacco farming might produce a much healthier product.
Use the Internet links given here to learn more about genetic research and protein production. With a friend, prepare a class report that explains the benefits
of using genetics to produce human proteins.