La Jolla [California’s] Synthetic Genomics and oil giant ExxonMobil say they have created an oil-rich strain of algae that represents a major research advance toward commercializing algae-based biofuels.
Researchers have doubled lipid content in a genetically engineered strain of Nannochloropsis gaditana, the companies say in a study published … in Nature Biotechnology. It has been increased from about 20 percent in the natural form of this edible ocean algae to 40-55 percent in the engineered strain.
Moreover, this increase comes without significantly reducing the algae’s growth rate, the study said. And the oil-like lipids from may potentially be processed in existing refineries and used like diesel.
The genetically engineered strain inhibits a suppressor of lipid production.
Using various tools, the team identified certain genes that were inhibited in this low-nitrogen environment, then they set out to identify those that regulated lipid production. They found one that met all tests. Using this knowledge, they employed the popular CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing system to inhibit that gene.
[Read the full study (behind paywall)]
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