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Biopharming – MIT chemists engineer periwinkle plants to produce new drugsne [Registered]

Humans have long taken advantage of the huge variety of medicinal compounds produced by plants. Now MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) chemists have found a new way to expand plants’ pharmaceutical repertoire by genetically engineering them to produce unnatural variants of their usual products. The researchers, led by Associate Professor Sarah O’Connor, have added bacterial genes to the periwinkle plant, enabling it to attach halogens such as chlorine or bromine to a class of compounds called alkaloids that the plant normally produces. Many alkaloids have pharmaceutical properties, and halogens, which are often added to antibiotics and other drugs, can make…

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