Tobacco Saving Lives Again

Scientific journals have been full of news about tobacco of late, but this time about the life-saving properties of tobacco in uses for health and defense:

  • The ability of tobacco plants to grow quickly and its susceptibility to viruses are the key elements which led researchers to conclude that a successfully-tested vaccine for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma could be made quickly and inexpensively.

    Reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, the test showed that the vaccine activated the immune systems of 11 of the 16 volunteers who participated in the human trial, and did not show any serious side effects.

    Ronald Levy of the Stanford University School of Medicine, the co-author of the report, said that the vaccine can be created by being produced through the growth of tobacco plants. By introducing specific genes from a patient into a tobacco plant using the Tobacco Mosaic Virus, the plant will reproduce them in high quantity and they can then be used to treat the patient.

    The vaccine is not a cure for the virus, but can be used to treat sufferers right away and retard the growth of this slow-moving disease. Exactly how effective it is compared to or when paired with chemotherapy is yet to be determined.

  • The Danish technology firm Aresa has developed a tobacco plant which turns red when grown near land mines and could be used to help clear mine-infested areas from long-ago conflicts such as World War I, World War II and more recent events.

    The plant's effectiveness is currently being tested in Serbia; the plant turns from green to red when it detects nitrogen dioxide "leaching" from mines buried in nearby soil. Buried explosives are present in about 80 countries and bomb-sniffing dogs or long-reaching tractors are used today; since tobacco grows easily in many types of soil, this type could be planted in areas where mines might be present and assist in identifying mine locations.