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Kenyan scientists deploy CRISPR to protect bananas from diseases threatening to wipe out the world’s most popular variety

Mihai Andrei | ZME Science | September 29, 2021

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Credit: AfricaME
Credit: AfricaME

This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation. It is posted under Fair Use guidelines.

All the cultivated banana varieties are susceptible to diseases — and Banana xanthomonas wilt (BXW) is particularly problematic. BXW is a bacterial disease that has emerged as one of the largest threats to bananas. Overall economic losses from the disease were estimated at US$ 2–8 billion over a decade.Follow the latest news and policy debates on agricultural biotech and biomedicine? Subscribe to our newsletter.SIGN UP

With this in mind, researchers from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) scientists in Kenya set out to use genetic modifications to produce more resilient bananas. They used CRISPR/Cas9, a precise but also relatively affordable gene-editing tool, a discovery that earned a Nobel Prize in 2020.

They focused on a gene called downy mildew resistance 6 (DMR6), a gene that has previously been shown to be important for many plants in fighting disease. During pathogen infection, the expression of this gene works to reduce or suppress the plant’s immune function — so if the gene were to be switched off, the plant’s immune system could be turbocharged.

The plants edited with CRISPR showed increased resilience to the disease, in some cases by up to 66% more resilient. Other than the increased resilience, there seemed to be no differences.

This is an excerpt. Read the original post.

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