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Crop Biotech Update

UC San Diego Scientists Develop First CRISPR-Cas9-based Gene Drive in Plants

July 1, 2021

Scientists at the University of California San Diego have developed the first CRISPR-Cas9-based gene drive in plants. The research, led by postdoctoral scholar Tao Zhang and graduate student Michael Mudgett, is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Gene drive technology has been developed in insects to help stop the spread of vector-borne diseases. Researchers in Professor Yunde Zhao's lab, along with colleagues at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, demonstrated the successful design of a CRISPR-Cas9-based gene drive that cuts and copies genetic elements in Arabidopsis plants. The new research uses CRISPR-Cas9 editing to transmit specific, targeted traits from a single parent in subsequent generations. The technology could be used to develop plants that could defend themselves against diseases or fortify them against the impacts of climate change such as increased drought.

"This work defies the genetic constraints of sexual reproduction that an offspring inherits 50% of their genetic materials from each parent," said Zhao. He added that their work enables the inheritance of both copies of the desired genes from only a single parent and the findings can greatly reduce the generations needed for plant breeding.

Developing superior crops through traditional genetic inheritance can be expensive and time-consuming as genes are passed through multiple generations. Using the new active genetics technology based on CRISPR-Cas9, such genetic bias can be achieved much more quickly, the researchers say.

For more details, read the article in UC San Diego News Center.

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