A group of biologists from Rothamsted Research, the University of Bristol and Curtis Analytics Limited ( UK ) used the CRISPR-Cas9 system to remove a gene involved in the synthesis of asparagine from wheat. According to a study published in the Plant Biotechnology Journal , it may reduce the risk of cancer in humans.
Many plant and animal species produce the amino acid asparagine in their cells. When heated to a certain temperature, a chemical reaction occurs, as a result of which the carcinogen acrylamide is formed. Previous studies have shown that it can increase the risk of cancer in mice.
The amount of asparagine in plants is known to vary with weather conditions as they grow. In 2021, a team of scientists used CRISPR-Cas9 to remove a gene responsible for producing an amino acid in wheat plants to reduce the amount of acrylamide produced during baking. To do this, they grew samples of wheat in a greenhouse and measured asparagine levels after the plants reached full maturity, showing that it was reduced by 50 percent.
In the new work, the same research team used the CRISPR gene editing method on plants under real agricultural conditions. Testing has shown that such plants contain about half as much asparagine as compared to unmodified plants. The results show that asparagine levels in crops can be safely reduced using gene editing techniques.