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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 23:11 GMT 00:11 UK
Chelsea to showcase plant power
Flower Show
The Chelsea flower show attracts thousands of visitors
Scientists are to use the Chelsea Flower Show to show how genetically modified plants can be used to make medicines.

The team of scientists from Guys, King's and St Thomas' Dental Institute and King's College, London, have already developed a vaccine against tooth decay from a genetically modified tobacco plant.

The vaccine, which is colourless and tasteless can be painted onto teeth rather than injected, and is the first plant-derived vaccine from GM plants to ever go into human trials.

The only alternative to using plants would be using experimental animals

Dr Julian Ma, King's

Dr Julian Ma, senior lecturer in the department of oral medicine at King's, said there was further potential for developing medicines from plants.

"We have been investigating the development of new vaccines produced using GM plants since 1991 and want to show the public the exciting and important potential behind this technology.

"The Chelsea Flower Show allows us to meet the public face to face to discuss and illustrate how new technology can be used in plants to create new drugs that may benefit many people."

Dr Ma said the show, being held between 21 and 24 May, would give scientists the opportunity to point out the differences between GM foods and GM plants.

Future hopes

"It is also a great opportunity to emphasise the positive features of GM plants, distinguishing them from GM foods and helping explain or demystify the issues that exist over the whole term 'genetically modified.

"One of the ways we aim to illustrate the potential benefits of GM plants is through our own ongoing research into a vaccine against tooth decay.

"We wouldn't be able to make this vaccine safely and in large quantities without plants - the only alternative to using plants would be using experimental animals."

The display will show the logical progression of plants from the laboratory to the fields and then to the pharmacy.

After the show finishes Dr Ma hopes to tour with the display around the UK.

See also:

30 Nov 01 | Africa
11 Sep 00 | Festival of science
03 Jun 00 | Health
29 Dec 01 | Health
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