Biotech Updates

"Jailbreaking" Yeast to Improve Wine's Health Benefits, Reduce Morning-After Headaches

March 25, 2015

Scientists from the University of Illinois (UI) have engineered a jailbreaking yeast that could greatly increase the health benefits of wine. The group, led by Yong-Su Jin, UI associate professor of microbial genomics, used the enzyme, RNA-guided Cas9 nuclease, a recently developed 'genome knife' to do precise metabolic engineering of polyploid Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains that have been widely used in the wine, beer, and fermentation industries.

Jin said that with engineered yeast, the healthful component of wine resveratrol could be increased by more than 10 times. Metabolic pathways to introduce bioactive compounds from other foods, such as ginseng, could be added into wine yeast. Resveratrol-producing pathways could also be put into strains used for any food that uses yeast fermentation in its production. Another benefit is enhanced malolactic fermentation, a secondary fermentation process that makes wine smooth. Improper malolactic fermentation generates the toxic byproducts that cause hangover symptoms.

The new technology also makes genetically modified organisms less objectionable, Jin said. "In the past, scientists have had to use antibiotic markers to indicate the spot of genetic alteration in an organism, and many persons objected to their use in foods because of the danger of developing antibiotic resistance. With the genome knife, we can cut the genome very precisely and efficiently so we don't have to use antibiotic markers to confirm a genetic event."

For more details, read the news release in the UI website.