Production of high-quality proteins in plants for screening and treatment of human lysosomal storage diseases

Lysosomes are structures that digest materials within the cell. Lysosomal storage diseases are devastating diseases caused by deficiencies of specific enzymes within the lysosomes. Mucopolysaccharidosis I (MPS I) is a progressive lysosomal storage disease that affects most organ systems. In severely affected humans, this genetic disease leads to early death because of profound disturbances to the heart, brain and other organ systems. One way to correct lysosomal enzyme deficiency is through using purified enzymes for enzyme replacement therapies (ERT). However, the current methods used to commercially produce the enzymes for ERT are prohibitively costly. Because of this, sustained financial support for ERT among affected Canadians is uncertain. Dr. Allison Kermode is exploring whether using plants as hosts to produce these human enzymes will offer a more economical way to provide ERT treatments for MPS I, as well as for Gaucher disease, another lysosomal storage disease. She will test whether plant-made human enzymes are effective as ERTs. She will also establish a plant-based system for assessing potential small molecule treatments for these diseases. Finally, in collaborative work, Kermode will test plant-made lysosomal enzymes in assays for newborn screening of lysosomal storage diseases. Some of the research will be expanded to other therapeutic proteins relevant to Type I diabetes, providing a general platform for plant production of therapeutic proteins.