GM/Biotech Crops Report – December 20234th December 2023
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GM/Biotech Crops Monthly Report December 2023
Purple-skinned carrots have been around for a while but now some Chinese researchers have used gene-editing to develop carrots with purple flesh. The pigmentation is due to higher levels of anthocyanin which can help reduce inflammation and improve glucose-tolerance, both of which can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Pic: CSA Veggies
Sickle cell anaemia
The UK has gained a world first! Around 15000 people in the UK suffer from sickle cell anaemia and a further 1000 suffer from beta thalassemia. Now the UK has approved a gene-edited drug which that cures the defects in a patients’ bone marrow that causes these diseases. – a revolution for sufferers.
Chinese researchers have identified the genes involved in regulating the timing of flowering in tomatoes and used CRISPR-Cas9 editing to produce an early-flowering form that is expected to speed up the breeding of new varieties and make the process easier. Will it speed up the production of harvestable fruit?
Turnip mosaic virus is apparently a big threat to Chinese cabbage crops and so scientists at Nanjing University have taken action and used CRISPR-Cas9 editing to modify the cabbage variety Seoul resulting in plants that are now resistant to the virus.
Researchers in Brookhaven University in America have developed some enzymes which allow grasses to produce more sugars at the expense of lignin production and they claim that this will result in more efficient biofuel crops. I hope that the resulting plants aren’t so floppy that they are difficult to harvest.
CRISPR-edited honey bees
Honey bees are apparently a good model to use when trying to elicit the function of specific genes and a paper presented at a recent conference demonstrated how CRISPR editing can make honey bee larvae unresponsive to fructose without impairing their reaction to sucrose. Life is sweet.
Gene drives in agriculture
Gene drives introduce traits that persist through populations and now researchers are investigating ways of reducing the impact of various agricultural pests. The first lesson learned is that gene drives are only effective against pests that reproduce sexually and those with asexual reproduction appear to be off-limits and those with long generation times are also difficult to affect.
The first gene-edited potato to be released in South America is close to completion. The modification silences a gene that is responsible for the flesh turning brown when exposed to air due to damage and it is expected to reduce the losses experienced by growers during the harvesting and transport to market activities. A similar trait has been available in apples for some time.
A PHD student at Wageningen University is using CRISPR editing of the colour gene in petunias to produce plants with orange flowers. Whilst it is easier to just grow marigolds if you want orange flowers, perhaps she plans to develop black tulips next.
Nitrogen-fixing bacteria are found in the root nodules of legume crops and they fix nitrogen to make it available to the growing crop. However, they are sensitive to both heat and humidity so it has proved difficult to scale up their manufacture so that they can be bought in by farms. Now MIT has developed a way of coating the bacteria with manganese which makes them much more stable and easier to transport. Tests have shown that using these granules can improve seed germination by 150% so they might also allow a slight reduction in seed rate at sowing.
The lack of new antibiotics to combat resistance has raised global concerns about the future safety of health but now a company in Germany has found a way of producing novel anti-microbial compounds. They use AI and synthetic biology to design DNA templates for antimicrobial peptides for rapid screening – a quick and inexpensive method.
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