Sunday, April 22, 2012
Company is already growing other medicinal plants in mine
By Paul Egan
Detroit Free Press
April 22, 2012
WHITE PINE — In a brightly lit chamber 250 feet below the earth’s surface, where hard-rock miners once blasted for copper, no marijuana is growing, but two other types of plants are.
SubTerra is using genetically modified forms of a legume called tarwi and a tuber called oca to produce an enzyme needed to fight Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, commonly known as bubble boy disease.
If successful, physicians say the research could mark significant advances in treatment for a disease that affects about one in every 100,000 births.
Children born with SCID have immune systems so compromised that some must live behind plastic to protect them from germs.
The disease takes several forms. The second most common type results from a genetic defect that results in too little of a germ-fighting enzyme called adenosine deaminase, or ADA.
The tightly controlled chamber in the former White Pine Mine — where the tarwi and oca grow — is lit by 64 specially designed 1,000-watt bulbs and serviced by an automated system for delivering water and nutrients. The two types of plants have been modified to produce the human form of ADA.