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People with the genetic disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy cannot synthesize dystrophin, a component of the scaffolding inside muscle cells. This deficiency results in muscle wasting and early death. The CRISPR–Cas9 gene-editing system has previously been used to trigger dystrophin production in mice. A team of scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas sought to test the technique in dogs. The researchers treated four dogs — all lacking dystrophin because of a genetic mutation — with the CRISPR–Cas9 system, which snipped out a short stretch of the animals’ DNA. This allowed the dogs’ cells to make dystrophin. Levels of the protein in one dog’s heart muscle reached 92% of normal.


Source: Nature, 31 August 2018.

An enzyme in the glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase family identified in red algae could boost the production of biofuel, said researchers from the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Scientific Reports. They found that production of oils called triacylglycerols, which can be converted to biodiesel, can be increased by more than 56 times without affecting algae growth rates.

USDA scientists scientists have transferred a biochemical pathway found in sorghum, which produces a weed-killing compound, into rice plants.

The compound sorgoleone, secreted by sorghum, helps the plant combat weeds. It works so well that some other crops struggle to grow in fields where sorghum has been raised, causing problems for growers who want to rotate different crops in those fields.


Source: USDA-ARS, August 27, 2018.

The government of India launched an 18-month experimental project of biotech mosquitoes to control the spread of dengue fever. Aedes aegypti mosquitoes will be infected with Wolbachia bacteria, then released into the wild to mate with local mosquitoes and spread the bacteria, which suppresses the transmission of other blood-borne diseases by infected mosquitoes.


Source: The Hindu, 21 August 2018.

A study published in Nature reports about a gene that improves plants' ability to absorb nitrogen, which can help develop high-yielding varieties of rice, wheat, and other staple crops that would need less fertilizer.


Source: Nature, August 15, 2018.

By using the CRISPR gene-editing tool to alter two of the more than 12 million nucleotides in the yeast genome, scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Department of Energy were able to protect yeast from damage caused by pretreatment chemicals in biofuel production. The ionic liquids used in biofuel production can render yeast up to 70 percent less effective at converting sugar to biofuel.


Source: Biofuels Digest, 11 August 2018.

Startups such as Calyxt are leading the way as companies apply gene-editing techniques to soybeans and other crops. Proponents say these techniques allow for more-precise DNA modification, but it remains to be seen how regulators and the public will react.


Source: Reuters, 10 August 2018.

J.R. Simplot, with Corteva Agriscience, the agriculture division of DowDuPont, and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, signed a joint intellectual property licensing agreement for CRISPR-Cas9 and related gene-editing tools, which will help Simplot advance fruit and vegetable products with traits desirable to US consumers and farmers.


Source: Wisconsin Ag Connecton, 9 August 2018.

A team of researchers in China used the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology to create a new species of yeast from just one chromosome, according to a study published in Nature. "In this study, we have reorganized the genome of Saccharomyces cerevisiae [the same yeast species used to brew beer] into one giant chromosome, in order to explore whether a yeast cell with an artificially fused single chromosome can survive and complete a sexual cycle," researchers wrote.


Source: Motherboard, 7 August 2018.

New Zealand-based biotechnology startup Humble Bee is attempting to create a bioplastic with the help of Banksia bees. The company and a team of researchers from Victoria University of Wellington are examining the bees' DNA to identify which genes allow bees to produce the cellophane-like bioplastic that lines their nests.


Source: ABC (Australia), 6 August 2018.

Four million Wolbachia bacteria-infected mosquitoes, which were released in Townsville, Australia, over two years, wiped out dengue fever in the city. In the four years since the experiment commenced, no instances of the disease have been recorded in the city, whereas 54 cases were reported in the previous four years.


Source: Daily Mail, 3 August 2018.


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