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

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.

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“….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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