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Researchers attach genes to minichromosomes in maize

ed, the new minichromosomes are particularly useful because they allow scientists to add numerous genes onto one minichromosome and manipulate those genes easily because they are all in one place, Birchler said. Genetic modification with traditional methods is more complicated because scientists have little control over where the genes are located in the chromosomes and cannot stack multiple genes on a separate chromosome independent of the others.

By stacking genes on minichromosomes, scientists could create crops that have multiple beneficial traits, such as resistance to drought, certain viruses and insects, or other stresses. In addition, minichromosomes could be used for the inexpensive production of multiple foreign proteins and metabolites useful for medical purposes. Because of their protein-rich composition, a part of the maize kernels (called an endosperm) can be used to grow animal proteins and human antibodies that treat diseases and disease symptoms. Minichromosomes could enable new and better production of these foreign proteins and antibodies. In addition, scientists also may be able to use them to develop plants better suited for biofuel production.

“The technique used to create our engineered minichromosomes should be transferable to other plant species,?Birchler said.

He said he hopes that he and other scientists can use the technique to create minichromosomes in other plant varieties and produce more resistant plant strains, develop more medically useful proteins and metabolites, and study how chromosomes function.


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Source:University of Missouri-Columbia


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