Scientists make herbicide-resistant plants


MINNEAPOLIS (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they’ve developed a technique for modifying plant genes that could help provide sustainable food, fuel and fibre supplies.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota and Massachusetts General Hospital said their genome engineering tool can make a model crop plant herbicide-resistant without significant changes to its DNA.

“It’s still a (genetically modified organism), but the modification was subtle,” said Professor Daniel Voytas, lead author of the study and director of the university’s Center for Genome Engineering. “We made a slight change in the sequence of the plant’s own DNA rather than adding foreign DNA.”

Voytas said the technique has the potential to help scientists modify plants to produce food, fuel and fiber sustainably, while minimizing concerns about genetically modified organisms.

The scientists said they created a customized enzyme called a zinc finger nuclease to change single genes in tobacco plant cells. The altered cells were then cultured to produce mature plants that survived exposure to herbicides.

“This is the first real advance in technology to genetically modify plants since foreign DNA was introduced into plant chromosomes in the early 1980s,” Voytas said. “It could become a revolutionary tool for manipulating plant, animal and human genomes.”

The research was published online by the journal Nature.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Sourced and published by Henry Sapiecha 11th May 2009


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