This post is about two recent developments in the field of biotechnology and environmental science.
1) Agrobacterium-mediated transformation is the method of choice for inserting foreign genes into the plant genome. Through this method one gene could be introduced at a time in a single experiment. However, to introduce two foreign genes, one needs to develop two separate plant lines each carrying one gene. The plants of the two lines are then cross bred to get both the genes in one plant. The process is quite laborious and takes a lot of time to complete. Besides, integration of the foreign gene into the plant genome can disrupt any native gene; or the foreign gene may get silenced and not expressed. To overcome these problems a team of scientists from the University of Chicago, the University of North Carolina and Chromatin, Inc., has developed a new method for constructing artificial plant mini-chromosomes. These are the rings of plant DNA that can be used to carry multiple genes in plant cells in one go. The work has been published in the October 19, 2007, issue of PLoS-Genetics. The team has developed maize mini-chromosomes (MMCs) that “…can introduce an entire “cassette” of novel genes into a plant in a way that is structurally stable and functional.” These mini-chromosomes could be suitably used as vectors for the transfer of two or more than two genes simultaneously, and would thereby save the time and effort required for lengthy and laborious hybridization experiments needed to transfer two genes in a plant genome. This would also cut down expenses involved in such experiments. The MMCs created also have maize centromere sequences in them. These sequences help them maintain independently of the maize genome and newly introduced genes remain separate from the genome. This also helps their efficient transfer to the next generation in the Mendelian fashion. Thus these MMCs behave much like ordinary chromosomes.
You can read the full story here.
2) The second story deals with the use of algae as biofuel. Several companies are already working on the use of algae as biofuels. But LiveFuels Alliance, funded by LiveFuels Inc based in Menlo Park, CA, is trying to tap the oil producing potential of algae and hopes to replace gallons of fossil fuels with algae-based biocrude by 2010. Algae synthesize oil naturally. The raw algae is processed to “…make biocrude, the renewable equivalent of petroleum, and refined to make gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and chemical feedstocks for plastics and drugs.” To quote from the story, “Theoretically, algae can yield between 1,000 to 20,000 gallons of oil per acre, depending on the specific strain.” What is important is that LiveFuels Alliance is a national initiative led by Sandia National Laboratories, a U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory, and in the next 3 years it would sponsor several labs and hundreds of scientists, which makes it the largest endeavor focused on commercial biofuel production from algae. Read the whole story here. via: Inhabitat