Zeitschrift für Phytotherapie 2006; 27 - P06
DOI: 10.1055/s-2006-954908

Plant stem cells for the production of pharmaceutical active compounds

A Gerth 1, D Schmidt 1, D Wilken 1
  • 1BioPlanta GmbH, Deutscher Platz 5, 04103 Leipzig, Germany

Embryonic stem cells are defined by their ability to self-renew and to give rise to differentiated descendants. Worldwide there is a great deal of interest in embryonic stem cells and their potential use in regenerative medicine and cell-based therapies for the treatment and cure of human diseases.

Plants also have stem cells. They are maintained in a relatively undifferentiated state by signals from surrounding cells at special sites within an organism. Plant stem cells in the shoot and root apical meristem provide the cells for the continuous development of new organs. Unlike human stem cells, plant stem cells can be obtained from nearly all tissues and differentiation processes can be easily induced leading to the regeneration of whole plants and plant organs in vitro. This property, designated totipotency, gives plants unique properties which make them distinguishable from animal cells.

BioPlanta uses plant stem cells for breeding elite plants in vitro as a starting point for the biotechnological production of phyto-pharmaceuticals.

Growth and developmental processes like adventitious shoot and root formation are controlled by variation of the culture medium. In contrast to undifferentiated cell cultures, in vitro shoot and organ cultures show a higher efficiency in the synthesis of secondary metabolites. BioPlanta has developed a platform technology for the cultivation of in vitro shoot and organ culture based on the temporary immersion system. By the use of plant stem cells, this bioreactor technology is applied to the production of natural active ingredients of the highest quality and with reliable availability.