Tag Archives: gene-editing

A NEW GREEN REVOLUTION TO BEGIN?

Tobacco plants that grow as much as 40% larger than usual have been designed by genetic engineers in Illinois. This is the first step in producing larger plants like potatoes which could be distributed to the poor countries throughout the world.

The genetically modified plants are wider and taller from the regular ones. As a team at the University of Illinois and the United States Department of Agriculture said, they gave tobacco something called “photorespiratory bypass”. It is a kind of a cassette of genetic changes that let the plants turn sunlight into energy more efficiently.

What is interesting, in 2016 University of Illinois bioengineers managed to make tobacco plants grow 20% bigger by helping them respond more quickly to changes in light and shade. This time actually they made plants that use less energy during photorespiration, which is a process that plants need to clear out a toxin called glycolate created during photosynthesis. To achieve this, the team had to add about 16,000 letters of novel DNA instructions to tobacco plants.

You are probably wondering why all of these experiments were carried out with the use of tobacco. Not only do tobacco plants grow quickly, but also are easy to genetically modify. The team is known to be already working on similar gene changes to potatoes, soybeans , and cowpeas.

However, as Heike Sederoff, a plant scientist at North Carolina State University claims, there is a long way for researchers to prove that these modifications actually work. He believes that we should not expect such plants in the markets earlier than 20 years from now.

 

Nevertheless, there are plenty of philanthropes and foundation which are hoping that genetic engineering could lead to a huge step forward in farm productivity. Scientists at Illinois were donated by more than $80 million by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The goal of the whole project, which is called RIPE (Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency) is to increase the yields of staple food crops and improve global food security. As we can find out from their website, the Green Revolution’s advances have already reached their biological limits. They find it crucial to keep pace with this century’s growing population (which is forecasted to grow to nearly 10 billion by 2050) and provide food to the biggest possible number of people by making new innovations to agriculture industry.

There are also other organizations trying to find new solutions, like C4 consortium led by Paul Quick at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines, which is developing a process called C4 photosynthesis. It boosts plants’ growth by capturing carbon dioxide and concentrating it in specialized cells in the leaves, which allows the photosynthetic process to operate much more efficiently. Researchers claim that engineering C4 photosynthesis into rice and wheat could increase yields per hectare by roughly 50 percent. Alternatively, they believe that it would be possible to use far less water and fertilizer to produce the same amount of food.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Would you buy such genetically modified plants without any concerns? Let me know down below!

 

Sources:

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/535011/supercharged-photosynthesis/

https://ripe.illinois.edu/objectives/our-story

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612710/gene-engineers-make-super-sized-plants-that-are-40-larger/

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CRISPR babies – designing your future child like a Baby Born or a prevention of serious diseases?

Chinese Clinical Trial Registry (ChiCTR) which is an official platform and catalog for registering a clinical trials in China proves that this month researchers from Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen conducted an experiment of creating babies with edited genes. The news is really recent, the last official information about this issue has been refreshed on 26th of November and there is still a lot of uncertainty…

Scientific title of this research is “Evaluation of safety and efficacy of gene with human embryo CCR5 gene”. CCR5 is responsible for being resistant (or not) to HIV. Tool used by Chinese scientists is called CRISP. It enables to edit certain genes in an in vitro fertilization. Human embryos are changed before transferring them into women’s uterus. He Jiankui, the leader of this experiment, did not want to answer all the questions, he posted a video on Youtube explaining cursorily the project, but he refuses to comment on anything else.

Source: The He Lab Youtube channel

Znalezione obrazy dla zapytania crispr

Source: Cambridge University Press

It is undoubtedly an enormous step for medical as well as technological world, but it brings serious threats too. Any gene editing can cause “off target” mutations. Many specialists are concerned that this can go into wrong direction. Feng Zhang, a Chinese-American biochemist, member of the Board Institute of MIT and Harvard, said: Although I appreciate the global threat posed by HIV, at this stage, the risks of editing embryos to knock out CCR5 seem to outweigh the potential benefits”.  Vice-director of the Tsinghua University Comprehensive AIDS Research Center, Zhang Lin-Qi claims that “The consequences are impossible to predict”. Fyodor Urnov, associate director of the Altius Institute for Biomedical Sciences feels  “regret and concern over the fact that gene editing—a powerful and useful technique—was put to use in a setting where it was unnecessary.” However, He Jiankui believes that his experiment “will surpass” the development of in vitro fertilization. The solution to infertility gave Robert Edwards Nobel Prize in 2010. Does He deserve one too?

Gene-editing arouses a few social and moral dilemmas. Will gene-editing become a prevention, health advantage like vaccinations for privileged group of people? Or maybe people will choose physical and personality traits for their children? Where is the line between development and interference with a nature of human? How will it affect an average person? Can it change or control the evolution? Will we wake up one day and say it is too late to bring back genetic balance into our society? For now, we have to answer this questions by ourselves.

It’s worth mentioning that currently usage of genetically modified embryo while establishing a pregnancy is illegal in Europe. It is also prohibited in China. We do not know whether He got special authority or did it unlawfully. He’s media spokesman, Ryan Ferrell didn’t respond whether the project is legal.

References:

http://www.chictr.org.cn/showprojen.aspx?proj=32758

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612458/exclusive-chinese-scientists-are-creating-crispr-babies/

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612465/crispr-inventor-feng-zhang-calls-for-moratorium-on-baby-making/

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/612466/the-chinese-scientist-who-claims-he-made-crispr-babies-has-been-suspended-without-pay/

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/11/crispr-bombshell-chinese-researcher-claims-have-created-gene-edited-twins

https://businessinsider.com.pl/technologie/nauka/crispr-cas9-genetycznie-zmodyfikowane-blizniaki-w-chinach/q0r5p5y

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