A genetically modified tobacco plant produces cocaine in its leaves

Researchers have replicated the entire biochemical pathway of how coca plants make cocaine in another plant, which could help people make the drug for scientific study


November 25, 2022

A small pile of cocaine

Cocaine is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant

Photo by Alay

The complex biochemistry that sees coca plants make cocaine has been unchecked and replicated in a relative of the tobacco plant. Recreating the process by modifying other plants or microorganisms could lead to a way to make the stimulant or produce chemically similar compounds with unique properties.

Biochemists have attempted to map the manufacture of cocaine by the coca plant for over a century, both because of its unique structure and its uses in medicine, more recently as …

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