Scientists use CRISPR-Cpf1 technology to modify fat in soybean oil

A team from the Center for Genome Engineering, within the Institute for Basic Research (IBS), South Korea has successfully edited two genes that contributed to the fat content of soybean oil.

They deployed the new CRISPR-Cpf1 technology, an alternative to the more widely used gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9. The results of the new plant gene editing technique, which applied to soybeans and wild tobacco genes, are published in Nature Communications.

CRISPR-Cas9, the third generation gene editing system, widely used in biology labs all over the world deployed proteins called Cas9, which acted like "gene scissors", and CRISPR-RNA (crRNA), which guided the "scissors" to edit the DNA at the right position.

Scientists had earlier employed Cpf1, an alternative to Cas9, to edit human DNA cells, but this time the same research team grappled with editing plant genes and successfully introduced the CRISPR-Cpf1 complex into plant cells.

With the CRISPR-Cpfi technique the biologists cut two of the FAD2 genes in soybeans which formed genes part of the pathway that converts fats - oleic acid into the polyunsaturated linoleic acid. The FAD2 gene mutation led to the increased in percentage of oleic acid in soybean seeds resulting in a healthier oil.

Meanwhile, a leading scientist predicted that all hereditary diseases could be eradicated in as little as two decades considering the rapid progress in techniques to manipulate DNA.   

He added, over the period, a host of other fatal and debilitating health problems, such as cancer and blindness, could also be cured.

Dr Edze Westra, of the University of Exeter, is a leading expert in Crispr/Cas9 gene editing technology which used as ''molecular scissors'' to snip off mutations or insert DNA from other organisms.

''I think in the coming decades Crispr will become super important and I think we will see it being used to cure genetic diseases and cancers,'' Dr Westra said at the Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston.