Scientists in Germany have genetically modified carrots to contain the vaccine against hepatitis B.

The carrots are at a stage when pre-clinical trials can start, and they could be market-ready within three years,, researchers are Giessen University say. The current vaccine against hepatitis B is expensive to produce, and is administered via three injections, with the costs that incurs.

The modified carrots could radically lower the costs of vaccination. “We can make 100,000 or so plants in two weeks and within three months they are ready to eat,” said Dr Jafargholi Imani from the Giessen research group.

The hardiness of the humble carrot, which thrives in various soil types and climates, makes it an ideal candidate for the project. Imani explained that other attempts to grow transgenic drug-containing tomatoes or potatoes have suffered from the delicate physical nature of tomatoes and the fact that potatoes are difficult to eat raw, while cooking would destroy the vaccine.

The team is about to publish their initial report in the Dutch journal Plant Cell, Tissue and Organ Culture.

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