Recently, a break through in the field of genetic manipulation has created a new, more efficient and faster method of genetically modifying plants. The revolutionary method could provide the ability to modify plants to contain a range of desirable traits including drought resistance, easier refinement into biofuels, even the ability to manufacture human medicines. The new method involves creating an artificial mini-chromosome containing all the desirable information to be integrated into the plant.
Until recently, the process of genetically manipulating a plant or organism involved introducing a gene or a stack of genes at random into the plant's chromosomes. According to Roger Kemble head of crop genetics research at Syngenta Biotechnology, Inc., this method (of genetic manipulation) can disrupt existing genes or strand the new ones in a part of the genome that prevents them from switching on. Researchers therefore may have to transform hundreds or thousands of plants to find the ones that work as desired. Today's stacks are also limited to delivering about five genes.
The mini-chromosome, called a "maize mini-chromosome" (MMC), was designed by a group of researchers at the University of Chicago. The scientists stitched together a circular loop of DNA containing the information that was intended to be incorporated by the corn plant and then inserted it into the corn cell. The circular loop of DNA, called a centromere was loaded with DNA encoding red fluorescent protein and a second marker for easy spotting in carrier plants. The corn cell treated the artificial chromosome like one of its own and the reproducing cell copied the loop and split the copies among its descendants. When injected into single cells that grew into plants, the mini-chromosome was passed down to up to 93 percent of the plants' offspring for three generations.
Daphne Preuss who is Professor of Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology at the University of Chicago and Chief Scientific Officer as well as President of Chicago-based Chromatin, Inc., which funded the research, stated that, “This new method should allow plant engineers to introduce a set or "stack" of approximately ten genes all at once into a desired plant. When you can build your own chromosome, you raise the ceiling for what's possible.”
To read the Original Article:
Artificial Chromosome Poised to Pump Up GM Crops with Extra Genes by JR Minkel
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By Emilie Meehl
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