Plant Genetic Resources: Characterization and Utilization

Research Article

In vitro culture and cultivation of Chinese medicinal plants for industrial utilization and genetic resource conservation

Wenyuan Gaoa1, Wei Jiaa2 c1, Xianfu Gaoa2, Renfeng Wanga2 and Peigen Xiaoa3

a1 College of Pharmaceuticals & Biotechnology, Tianjin University, Tianjin, 300072, China

a2 School of Pharmacy, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, 200030, China

a3 Institute of Medicinal Plant, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, Beijing, 100094, China


In China, medicinal plants enjoy an inherent and prominent role in the general health service. Due to excessive collection in the wild of rare and endangered plants, the natural resources of medicinal plants are depleting fast. In order to protect the medicinal plant resources, the Chinese government has implemented Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) programmes to cultivate the main popular medicinal plants in China. Thus far, around 800 GAP cultivation bases have been established nationwide and the total cultivation area of medicinal plants has reached 5000 km2. Besides GAP cultivation of medicinal plants, tissue cultural biotechnology has been applied to serve as an alternative for the supply of medicinal plant materials in China. Thus far, shoot production by tissue culture technology has been successful in medicinal plants such as Anoectochilus formosanus, Dalbergia odorifera, Dendrobium, Momordica grosvenorii, Pseudostellaria heterophylla and Taxus chinensis. In addition, the cell culture of Lithospermum erythrorhizon and Saussurea involucrata has been industrialized in 300–20,000-litre bioreactors. Besides the production of shoot and cell culture in bioreactors, tissue culture technology is also being practised for the conservation of rare medicinal plants.

(Received February 17 2005)

(Accepted May 13 2005)


c1 *Corresponding author: E-mail: