A Maryland-based company that successfully achieved CTV tree vaccination in the lab has citrus greening in its crosshairs.

In April of this year, Silvec Biologics, a company founded by University of Maryland virologist Anne Simon, announced they had successfully achieved  citrus tristeza virus CTV tree vaccination in a model plant in the laboratory. According to a Citrus Industry article, Silvec Biologics is now looking to do something similar with citrus greening. Explore the details below.

CTV Tree Vaccination Details

According to the article, Simon’s team used a “novel infectious RNA that the company calls an independently mobile RNA (iRNA).” Furthermore,  “iRNAs are relatively easy to modify by inserting targeted anti-pathogenic agents called small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). siRNAs can be used to target viruses, bacteria and host messenger RNAs (mRNAs) by bonding with them in a manner that triggers a host response where enzymes are sent to chop them up.”

Simon shared that the siRNAs zero in on only the organism targeted, leaving others alone. “This makes them far safer and more effective to use than other anti-pathogenic agents like antibiotics that may indiscriminately target pathogens along with much of the plant’s microbiome, as well as consuming organisms and their microbiome,” she said in the article.

The goal is to “insert multiple siRNAs into a single iRNA to target the major bacterial, fungal or viral diseases of a given species of tree. Once grafted into a mature tree or seedling, the iRNA systemically travels throughout the tree and induces cells to replicate it. As it is replicated, so are the inserted siRNAs, which then break off and circulate throughout the tree.” This occurs throughout the life of the tree, creating an effective vaccination effect.

The Silvec Biologics team is also focused on other tree diseases like citrus greening. “My lab and Silvec Biologics scientists are working seven days a week trying to provide a novel solution to this terrible problem (HLB) because there is such an urgent need,” Simon said in the article.

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