The periwinkle plant, also known as Catharanthus roseus, produces several compounds with medicinal properties, including the anticancer drug vinblastine (Image: Patrick Gillooly)
MIT associate professor Sarah O'Connor, right, and graduate student Weerawat Runguphan have engineered periwinkle root cells that can produce variations of compounds that the plant normally synthesizes (Image: Patrick Gillooly)
Scientists have been engineering new genes into plants for a number of years in an effort to expand on naturally occurring medicinal compounds. Now chemists at MIT have gone one step further, using an approach known as metabolic engineering to alter the series of reactions plants use to build new molecules, thereby enabling them to produce unnatural variants of their usual products.
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