Plant genes could combat resistance to hemophilia drugs

University of Pennsylvania biochemist Henry Daniell has designed a method for improving hemophilia treatments using a plant-based drug delivery system that combats resistance to standard clotting factors, which afflicts about one-fourth of those with the disease.

His team fused genes that promote tolerance to the protein clotting factor VIII and then inserted them in tobacco plant chloroplasts. They then grew the plants and fed mice a solution containing the ground-up plants. Compared to control mice that ate a solution containing nonmodified plants, the mice that ate the experimental therapy formed fewer antibodies against the clotting factor.

Moreover, the formation of the antibodies could be reversed in mice that had already developed them, a finding which has significant clinical implications for humans who are already resistant to standard therapy.  

"The only current treatments for inhibitor formation cost $1 million and are risky for patients," Daniell said in a statement. "Our technique, which uses plant-based capsules, has the potential to be a cost-effective and safe alternative."

Standard treatments for hemophilia are ineffective in patients with antibodies to the clotting factor, making them vulnerable to even minor episodes of bleeding because their blood doesn't clot easily, even when given the clotting factor. Daniell's supplementary genetic and plant-based therapy could enable them to benefit from clotting factor injections in the future.

- read the news release