Thursday, January 21, 2010

Future of Plant-cell Tissue Culture

The commercial potential of plant-cell tissue culture has not yet been fully recognized and is underexploited. Plant-cell tissue culture has two primary products: plant tissue for efficient micropropagation of plants and the use of plant-tissue culture to produce specialty chemicals.

Plant-cell, tissue, and organ cultures can be used in processes analogous to traditional fermentation processes for producing chemicals. Although less than 5% of the world's plants have even been identified taxonomically, from among the known plants over 20,000 chemicals are produced - about 4 times as many as from all microorganisms. Very few of the chemicals in pure or semipure form have been tested for their pharmacological activity for other uses. The enzymatic systems in plants can be used to generate completely new compounds when supplied with analogues of natural substrates; thus, plants contain an underused biochemical diversity. Even the limited use of this vast biochemical potential has had important impacts on mankind; in western countries, about one-fourth of all medicines are derived from compounds extracted from plants. Other plant products are used as flavors, fragrances, or pesticides.

Plant-cell tissue culture to produce chemicals commercially has been exploited in Japan, although regulatory approval for medicinal uses has proved difficult and commercial production is restricted to food uses and pigment production. In Japan, a government-sponsored consortium of universities and corporations was recently developed to establish a foundation for plant-cell culture exploitation (i.e., a precompetitive research thrust). In the US plant-cell tissue is not being exploited for chemical production, although some companies are developing processes for the production of the chemotherapeutic agent taxol.

The major technical barriers to the commercial exploitation of plant-cell tissue culture are low growth rates and relatively low product yields. To mitigate those problems, research is needed in subjects as diverse as bioreactor strategies to maintain high-density cultures and enable large-scale production of chemicals through organ cultures and a mechanistic understanding of the role of elicitors in activating pathways for secondary metabolites that could lead to higher productivities of compounds with therapeutic value.

Tags: Bio Technology, Bio Genetics, Bio Process Engineering

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