Zinc finger nucleases solve the problem and allows scientists to take greater advantage of homologous recombination, according to Wright and Townsend.
The research, published in the journal Nature, was performed in Dan Voytas' lab at Iowa State. Voytas recently left the university for a position at the University of Minnesota.
In addition to the difficulty introducing changes where researchers want them using current methods, government regulations often slow the movement of research from the lab to the field.
Wright and Townsend hope the precision of this technique will speed the regulatory process.
"In the random process, regulators would say, 'You really don't know what you're doing,'" said Townsend. "With this new technology, we can tell them, 'The genome looks like this, this is exactly the change we want to make.'
"That's the power of this technology. It makes it (genetic engineering) practical and much safer. It was impractical, and now it is practical."
There are many applications for this that could allow stunning advances for many crops, according to Wright and Townsend.
For instance, canola is a commodity grown for its oil, just as soybeans. However, after the oils are extracted, soybean meal is sold as feed. Once oils are extracted from canola, the meal has a much lower value as a livestock feed due to several factors, including the presence of the chemical sinapoylcholine, also called sinapine.
The new technique could allow scientists to remove the genes that make sinapine. The result would be a more versatile canola product.
Farmers, especially in the upper Midwest and Canada, would benefit from this new market for canola meal.
Other plants could benefit as well.
Removing the genes that are responsible for peanut allergies, or removing genes that produce harmful chemicals or anti-nutritionals in other crops are just a few of the imme
|Contact: Jeffery Townsend|
Iowa State University