From farmer to pharmer: ASU's "Ask a Biologist" profiles Charles Arntzen's amazing career path

From farmer to pharmer: ASU's "Ask a Biologist" profiles Charles Arntzen's amazing career path

August 11, 2015

August 11, 2015

Using "Bad" Plants for Good

By Dianne E. Price
Illustrated by Jason Drees
 
The grass tickles your toes as you stretch out under the shade of a big tree. You take a bite of a crisp apple, with a tangy sweetness that you feel in your cheeks. Animals, including humans, are forever linked with plants. After all, plants don't just give us a nice spot to relax. They also give life – they provide us with oxygen and food energy.
 
But what about those plants that are not so friendly? Poison ivy itches, cholla cactus spines hurt, and smoking tobacco can cause cancer, as well as breathing and heart problems.
 
That leads us to the story of Nicotiana benthamiana, or tobacco, a plant with a bad rap. Smoking cigarettes kills more than 443,000 Americans each year. It also leads to bad breath, rotten teeth, and premature wrinkles.
 
But these drawbacks didn't worry Charles Arntzen, a plant-loving researcher at Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute. Tobacco was part of his solution to the spread of the often-fatal disease Ebola.
 
To read more, go to ASU's Ask a Biologist feature story