Researchers at the John Innes Center in the UK have made significant strides in converting tomatoes into miniature biofactories to make medicines. Among the first, they created a tomato variety that accumulates levodopa (L-DOPA) in its tissues as it grows, a popular drug against Parkinson's disease. This will literally make it possible to grow medicinal products in the beds almost anywhere in the world.
The very idea of converting plants into biological factories for the production of nutrients is not new and is being promoted as an alternative to classical pharmacology. In it, drugs are produced by chemical synthesis in factories, which requires large investments, plus they cannot be deployed wherever they are needed. In contrast, the GMO tomato, as a high-yielding and easy-to-grow crop, will be available to everyone, and very simple equipment will be enough to extract levodopa from its pulp. This will not create competition for large-scale industries, but will make life much easier for patients in remote areas.
The first such biofactory was the Australian wild tobacco, in which, by editing genes, it was possible to turn off the immune mechanism, which made it possible to carry out any experiments on it. Among the most famous advances is the production of anti-inflammatory proteins, as well as vaccines against influenza and polio. But tobacco is more suitable for scientific purposes, but the GMO tomato already meets the goals of drug production on a large scale.
The experimental harvest was very good, scientists managed to get up to 150 mg of levodopa from 1 kg of tomato. Even better, this "natural product" does not provoke a negative reaction in the body, as sometimes happens with synthetic drugs against Parkinson's disease. And as a bonus - healing tomatoes practically do not wither, they have a surprisingly long shelf life.