Rising Genetic Transformation and Pharma Production to Widen the Scope of Plant Tissue Culture
Plant tissue culture was originally conceived by an Austrian botanist named Gottlieb Haberlandt. Ever since then, the applicability and scope of plant cell culture has been widening owing to the changing dynamics of human existence. In the past, use of plant cell culture has focused mainly on sustainable agriculture and mass production of critical pharmaceuticals. Both these sectors have been extremely instrumental in increasing the popularity of plant tissue culture like never before.
One of the many technologies and techniques that received a lot of praise and attention during the Covid-19 pandemic is the plant tissue culture technology. As per a market research report published by Research Dive, the growing consciousness among people during the pandemic with respect to their health and environment played an important part in increasing the demand for plant-based products. This increase in demand, as per this report, has been instrumental in the growth of the plant tissue culture market.
This technique, which involves growth and multiplication of plant cells, tissues, and organs in vitro, was first conceived during the early 1900s. Gottlieb Haberlandt, an Austrian botanist first proposed this idea of in vitro plant tissue culture, wherein parts of plants are used to generate plant clones using a controlled environment and a nutrient-rich medium. Totipotency of plant cells, i.e., the ability of cells to express the full genome by virtue of cell division, is thus, the basis of plant tissue culture.
Recent Developments in Plant Tissue Culture
As said earlier, the technique of plant tissue culture is at least 100 years old and over the years, renowned scientists and researchers like Skoog and Miller, Panchanan Maheshwari, Frederick Campion Steward, etc., have contributed enormously to this field. One major reason as to why this technique got popular with each passing year is the huge governmental support from various countries. The period of 1950s was particularly characterized by global food shortages and food insecurity challenges. In such a period, plant cell culture provided a novel method for increasing the yields of the crops. Hence, governments of different countries set up laboratories and funded the researchers in order to pursue this technology further and develop methods to increase food production.
In today’s world, however, though the underlying technique has remained the same, the purpose and scope of plant cell culture has widened. From being used for mass production of food crops, the focus of plant tissue culture has now shifted to ensure sustainability. Research has shown that by introducing correct genes during the culture process, plants can be grown to have inherent disease resistance and pest resistance. Hence, crops grown with the help of this technique have reduced the pesticide requirements drastically.
Also, the fertilizer requirement has declined as the plant growth is done in vitro. Thus, release of toxic pollutants by way of pesticides and inorganic fertilizers can be reduced significantly. Growing international consensus on the need for environmental protection, curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and reversing global warming has, thus, put plant tissue culture techniques into the limelight. A study by Susan T. Sim and Deborah Golino at Foundation Plant Services on disease elimination in grapevines throws more light on this aspect of changing dynamics of plant tissue culture.
Apart from sustainable agriculture, plant tissue culture has also grown in prominence in the pharmaceutical sector. As said at the very outset, plant tissue culture market received a major boost during the pandemic due to growing awareness regarding importance of plant-based products. Medicinal plants have a lot of secondary metabolites which are essential raw materials for numerous medicines. Hence, the research in pharmaceutical industry, as far as plant cell culture is concerned, is mainly centered around deciphering the metabolism of the plants.
Take the example of Berberine; Berberine is chemical found in plants like goldenseal, phellodendron, goldthread, etc. These chemical forms a major part of medication used for high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. In its natural form, Berberine is found in the roots of Coptis japonia; however, these roots take a lot of time to grow. Hence, plant cell culture method is used for the rapid growth of these roots and mass production of Berberine.
Future Prospects for Plant Tissue Culture
Genetic transformation is turning out to be the latest sector where plant tissue culture is being used abundantly. In genetic transformation, there is a transfer of genes so as to introduce desirable traits within the host plant. In this way, disease-resistance, pest-resistance, climate-resilient plants are grown in laboratories. Along with this, plant cell culture is also being increasingly used for protoplast fusion and haploid production. Thus, the applicability, utility, and scope of plant cell culture is sure to expand rapidly in the near future.
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