Researchers Could Successfully Modify DNA of Plants to a Greater Extent

Tuesday, March 10, 2020 - 11:30

University of Maryland researchers could create a new CRISPR gene-editing system that is successfully able to modify the DNA of plants to a greater extent.

In a new publication in Nature Plants, assistant professor of Plant Science at the University of Maryland Yiping Qi has established a new CRISPR genome engineering system as viable in plants for the first time: CRISPR-Cas12b.

The new system, referred to as CRISPR-Cas12b, would allow scientists to effectively modify crops for various purposes, such as making them more resistant to diseases or pests, phys.org reports.

"This is the first demonstration of this new CRISPR-Cas12b system for plant genome engineering, and we are excited to be able to fill in gaps and improve systems like this through new technology," says Qi. "We wanted to develop a full package of tools for this system to show how useful it can be, so we focused not only on editing, but on developing gene repression and activation methods."

"When people think of CRISPR, they think of genome editing, but in fact CRISPR is really a complex system that allows you to target, recruit, or promote certain aspects already in the DNA," says Qi. "You can regulate activation or repression of certain genes by using CRISPR not as a cutting tool, but instead as a binding tool to attract activators or repressors to induce or suppress traits."

"This type of technology helps increase crop yield and sustainably feed a growing population in a changing world. In the end, we are talking about broad impact and public outreach, because we need to bridge the gap between what researchers are doing and how those impacts affect the world," stresses Qi.

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