As Ebola continues to be in the headlines, scientists urgently look for treatments. One treatment option may stem from the tobacco plant, which is used to synthesize antibodies for a vaccine.

While not involved in the current efforts to find an Ebola treatment, Israeli company CollPlant is a pioneer in the development of recombinant proteins using tobacco plants. Professor Oded Shoseyov, of Hebrew University’s Institute of Plant Science and Genetics in Agriculture, and founder and chief scientific officer of Collpant, said the company is very knowledgeable about large-scale production of human cells in tobacco plants. Shoseyov also said Collplant was the first company to receive EU permission to market tobacco-synthesized human elements. Using nanotechnology, Collpant creates human collagen from the plants, which is a better way to produce the necessary element to repair bones and joints than other alternatives-using materials taken from cows and pigs.

Several American companies are working on Zmapp, a tobacco-synthesized “cocktail” which is the only current Ebola treatment option. Three humanized monoclonal antibodies created in plants, specifically Nicotiana, make up Zmapp, which is considered to be an optimized cocktail combining the best parts of the three antibodies. In turn, the antibodies bind to proteins in the Ebola virus which are supposed to  trigger the immune system and kill the germ. While identified as a possible option to treat Ebola, several patients in Liberia received the treatment and had mixed results. Zmapp has still not been clinically tested on humans, but is considered to still be the best option for treatment.

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