In the last years, hairy root (HR) cultures are gaining attention in the biotechnology industry. This particular plant cell culture derives from explants infected with Agrobacterium rhizogenes. They constitute a relatively new approach to in vitro plant biotechnology and modern HR cultures
are far away from the valuables findings performed by Philip R. White in the 1930´s, who obtained indefinite growth of excised root tips. HR cultures are characterized by genetic and biochemical stability and high growth rate without expensive exogenous hormones source. HR cultures have
allowed a deep study of plant metabolic pathways and the production of valuable secondary metabolites and enzymes, with therapeutic or industrial application. Furthermore, the potential of HR cultures is increasing continuously since different biotechnological strategies such as genetic engineering,
elicitation and metabolic traps are currently being explored for discovery of new metabolites and pathways, as well as for increasing metabolites biosynthesis and/or secretion. Advances in design of proper bioreactors for HR growth are being of great interest, since scale up of metabolite
production will allow the integration of this technology to industrial processes. Another application of HR cultures is related to their capabilities to biotransform and to degrade different xenobiotics. In this context, removal assays using this plant model system are useful tools for phytoremediation
assays, previous to the application in the field. This review highlights the more recent application of HRs and those new patents which show their multiple utilities.
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