A gene hack could save the wine industry from disease-carrying bugs

In 1882, an epidemic ravaged vineyards in California’s Los Angeles Basin. Named after plant pathologist Newton Pierce, it’s known as a mysterious plant disease that causes grape leaves to turn green-brown, shrivel and kill a vine within three years. It will take scientists about a century to figure out what causes the disease – a bacteria they have named Xylella fasrantyosa—And who spread it: a leaf-hopping insect known as the glass-winged hunter.

Despite best efforts to eradicate the half-inch-long insect, Pierce’s disease still ravages vineyards today. It is feared that climate change will exacerbate the problem and make Xyella infections difficult to treat. But there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon — and it involves hacking the glass-winged hunter’s DNA.

In a new study published May 3 in the journal Natural Science Report, researchers at the University of California Riverside have managed to successfully use the gene editing tool CRISPR to change the eye color of an insect, a change that has been passed on to its progeny. This may not seem like much, but the proof of concept shows that it is possible to modify the glass wing sniper with specific mutations and ensure those mutations persist and are not lost for future generations. future system. It means scientists may have the perfect tool to end the reign of terror spread by bacteria and save countless vulnerable vineyards from infection.

Peter Atkinson, an entomologist at UC Riverside and a co-author of the study, said in a press release: “Our team has for the first time established genetic approaches to shark control. glass wing.

Since 2014, scientists have used CRISPR – a technology developed from bacteria that allows precise editing of specific gene sequences – to eradicate diseases like malaria and control pests.

“This is a great technology because it can be very specific to one insect and has no off-target effects on other insects, animals or humans,” said Inaiara de Souza Pacheco, an entomologist at UC Riverside and lead author of the study, said in a press release. “It’s a much more environmentally friendly insect control strategy than using chemicals.”

Using CRISPR, the researchers were able to modify the genes that control the hunter’s eye color, changing it from brown to white or cinnabar. They found that these genes were not passed on based on gender, as is the case with white eyes being passed on to only males or females. Instead, nearly 100% of the insect eggs edited by CRISPR produced insects with different eye colors, and better yet, these new traits were passed down for three or more generations.

“That’s absolutely astounding because the success rate in other organisms is typically 30 percent,” said Linda Walling, a plant biologist at UC Riverside and study co-author, in a press release. or lower. “The high rate of successful gene editing in glass-winged beetles bodes well for our ability to develop new insect control methods, as well as to understand the underlying biology of the pest. this devastating harm.”

Glass winged windscreen with CRISPR corrected eye color.

Inaiara de Souza Pacheco

This success means the researchers are ready to head towards their real goal: the glass winged shark hunter’s mouth. That is the way X. fasprisosa bacteria are often contagious.

“We’re using CRISPR to try and modify the grinder’s mouth parts so they can’t pick up,” said Rick Redak, an entomologist at UC Riverside and study co-author, in a press release. bacteria that cause Pierce’s disease. .

If this succeeds, CRISPR could not only save California’s $58 billion wine industry by saving vines from premature death, but could also become a universal approach to controlling insect populations. nasty insects that destroy agricultural crops and spread destructive diseases.

“It seems likely that point shooters would become a model organism for Hemiptera, this large, sucking insect,” said Redak. “Our model of using CRISPR for them could open up the possibility of controlling diseases that they transmit to plants and possibly humans.”

https://www.thedailybeast.com/a-gene-hack-might-save-the-wine-industry-from-disease-carrying-bugs?source=articles&via=rss A gene hack could save the wine industry from disease-carrying bugs


Hung is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Hung joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: hung@interreviewed.com.

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