Science

Bioactive spray could be an alternative to genetically modified crops

Bioactive spray could be an al...
The scientists performed the majority of their experiments on thale cress plants (
The scientists performed the majority of their experiments on thale cress plants (Arabidopsis thaliana)
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The scientists performed the majority of their experiments on thale cress plants (
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The scientists performed the majority of their experiments on thale cress plants (Arabidopsis thaliana)

Although genetically modified crops have some big advantages over their regular counterparts, initially creating the modified plants can be quite challenging. Scientists have now developed a simpler approach, in which normal plants are altered with a spray that's applied to crops.

Agricultural plants are typically genetically modified in order to boost their yield, require less water, or be more resistant to pests and diseases. Successfully implementing such modifications does take a considerable amount of time and money, however, plus many people are leery of consuming the harvested plants (or foods made with them).

Led by researcher Masaki Odahara, a team at Japan's RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science set out to develop an easier alternative that would deliver the same results.

More specifically, the scientists wanted to create bioactive molecules that could be sprayed onto crops, where they would enter the plants' cells and either suppress or trigger the activity of specific genes.

One of the first candidates the scientists looked to were chains of amino acids known as cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs). Previous studies had shown that such peptides are capable of delivering molecules into structures within plant cells, such as the chloroplasts which perform photosynthesis.

In order to see which peptides would work best, the researchers tagged multiple natural and synthetic CPPs with yellow fluorescence signals, then sprayed those CPPs onto the leaves of thale cress, soybeans and tomatoes. When a confocal laser-scanning microscope was subsequently used to image the leaves, it was found that several of the peptides had been particularly successful at infiltrating their cells, causing them to fluoresce yellow.

Additional experiments showed that pieces of DNA called plasmids – which are frequently used to transfer foreign genes into organisms such as plants – could be carried into the plants' leaves after being attached to sprayed-on CPPs. Other attached biomolecules caused the leaves to temporarily develop more pores, allowing a greater quantity of the spray to be taken in.

Finally, the scientists turned their attention to a plant that had been genetically modified (in the traditional fashion) to over-express yellow fluorescence in its leaves. By attaching RNA that interferes with that activity to a CPP, and then spraying that CPP onto the plant's leaves, the researchers were successfully able to silence the yellow fluorescence.

"Bioactive molecules delivered via spray could effectively improve economically desirable quality traits in crops," said Odahara. "Our next step is to improve the efficiency of the delivery system. Ultimately, we hope this system can be used to safely protect crops from parasites or other harmful factors."

A paper on the study was recently published in the journal ACS Nano.

Source: RIKEN via AlphaGalileo

8 comments
8 comments
dcris
More mad scientists with nothing better to do than alter plants. Regenerative Farming practices with Organic methods is the best way to grow superior crops. All of this dissecting and experimenting is pointless. There is an abundance of food produce throughout the world to feed us all...it's distribution that is the problem. Altering with sprays or otherwise does not show the longterm effect of consuming such alterations. And you can already see where the issues will be in this. Overspraying a neighbors crops that doesn't want the abomination on his fields. And then ALL the ways this can be used against people. Sound negative? It's all about soil health...and all of these scientists were not raised on farms or grew gardens....Dirt is Gold.
MadMaxx
We waste 50% of the food grown globally. Neither this nor Genetically Modified plants are necessary for anything other than corporate profits. The current price gouging, which far exceeds anything driven by supply chain disruptions as demonstrated conclusively by record corporate profits, is simply another face of the greed that is inherent and is being manifest in capitalism.
reader
Awesome, DIY bio-hacking just got easier. It will likely lead to less toxic alternatives to current pesticides.
see3d
This is great research. It is very helpful to understand the genetics of the plants we rely on. Being able to tailor the traits that you need from a plant to suit the particular growing environment can be a real boon to food production. For instance draught tolerance during a dry period, or slow to spoil if needed to ship to other areas.
Expanded Viewpoint
And of course all of these chemicals are 100% safe for us to consume, right?? They're not going to cause healthy people to morph into real "couch potatoes", correct? The DNA modifications aren't going to transfer into our body and cause all kinds of weird mutations?
Jinpa
"... and then spraying that CPP onto the plant's leaves, the researchers were successfully able to silence the yellow fluorescence." That looks like they developed a way to hide the genetic tinkering. That is creepy.
noteugene
2 for, 2 against. I agree with other poster who said this could potentially cut down on pesticides. Personally, I think this is great news. I don't see how it can only be bad news just because delivery is a problem. 0r an increase in delivery would change this into good news.
Getthefacts4achange
It’s all about costs. If the spray is a pest control that it has to go through EPA safety testing. It has to be practical - you have to be able to store it at up to 100F in a barn and it shouldn’t wash off if it rain 48 hrs later. You have to apply it to a crop - this costs more money to employ someone to run a sprayer over the crop. For some crops like corn it’s too high and this isn’t possible. A GM crop comes with the trait in the bag. It’s simple to use - you pay for a fraction of what it gives back to you.

Great for high value organic crops - if it is allowed to be on organic crops. That is to be decided by non- science factors.

Like any bio active agent it has be shown to non toxic to all the others non- targets including people. BT is bio active and zero toxicity to mammals - to kill someone with it you would feed them so much they would choke. But some regards BT as evil. There is no logic.