Nanotubes and CRISPR gene editing could make producing disease-resistant crops faster and cheaper

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Credit: UC Berkeley graphic by Ella Marushchenko

Inserting or tweaking genes in plants is more art than science, but a new technique developed by University of California, Berkeley, scientists could make genetically engineering any type of plant—in particular, gene editing with CRISPR-Cas9—simple and quick.

To deliver a gene, the researchers graft it onto a carbon nanotube, which is tiny enough to slip easily through a plant’s tough cell wall. To date, most genetic engineering of plants is done by firing genes into the tissue—a process known as biolistics—or delivering genes via bacteria. Both are successful only a small percentage of the time, which is a major limitation for scientists seeking to create disease- or drought-resistant crops….

The nanotube not only protects the DNA from being degraded by the cell, but also prevents it from being inserted into the plant’s genome. As a result, the technique allows gene modifications or deletions that in the United States and countries other than the European Union would not trigger the designation “genetically modified,” or GMO.

Related article:  Viewpoint: Rampage movie offers twisted take on CRISPR gene editing

“….I think the major advances are going to be the ability to quickly and efficiently deliver genes to plants across species and in a way that could enable the generation of transgenic plant lines without integration of foreign DNA into the plant genome,” [said Markita Landry, a UC Berkeley assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering.]

Read full, original article: With nanotubes, genetic engineering in plants is easy-peasy

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