Review: Potential applications of plant biotechnology against SARS-CoV-2 (Trends Plant Sci.)

For those of you about to start teaching again, here’s a great article to share with your plant science students, showcasing the ways that plant biologists are contributing to the international efforts to develop diagnostic reagents, vaccines, and antiviral drugs to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic. Plants are particularly useful in these efforts as protein production in plants through transient expression systems can be achieved more rapidly than in other cell culture systems. This technology can be used to produce viral proteins for use in vaccines, stimulating immunity in humans. Similarly, antibody proteins produced in plants can be used to detect the presence of the virus for in vitro diagnostics, or injected into patients to help them fight off the virus. Carbohydrate-binding proteins called lectins can be produced in plants and act as effective anti-viral agents that bind to the carbohydrates on the viral surface. Given that COVID-19 is on everyone’s mind, why not use it as a chance to slip in a discussion of plant biotechnology? (Summary by Mary Williams @PlantTeaching) Trends Plant Sci. 10.1016/j.tplants.2020.04.009