Scientists at the University of Calgary in Canada have developed a super-cheap way to produce insulin, according to Popular Science report published this week: They've genetically engineered the human insulin gene into the safflower plant. After activation, the safflower starts producing insulin on its own.
In the past, the insulin prescribed to control diabetes has been produced via animals (cows and pigs), yeast and even bacteria. But the new method, which creates what the scientists are calling "prairie insulin" is both faster and cheaper than those traditional methods.
The development -- the first ever to involve a plant -- "could significantly reduce the expense of treating the disease, which currently costs the US $132 billion dollars a year," according to the report, as safflowers could produce 2.2 pounds of insulin per acre. PopSci contends that at that rate, just "25 square miles could produce enough insulin for the world's entire diabetic population."