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CRISPR Editing Generates Poplar Trees With Less Lignin, Better for Fiber Production

A North Carolina State University-led team has used CRISPR-based gene editing to produce trees with lower lignin levels, which it says would improve fiber production. As they describe in Science, the researchers used a predictive model to find gene-editing combinations of key lignin production-related genes that would reduce lignin concentration by 15 percent or more, increase the carbohydrate-to-lignin ratio by 200 percent or more, and increase the syringyl-to-guaiacyl ratio among poplar trees. From this analysis, they homed in on seven genome editing strategies, each of which targeted half a dozen genes, which they then implemented to generate 174 poplar tree lines. After six months of growth, the edited trees had reduced lignin content of up to 50 percent and a carbohydrate-to-lignin ratio that increased by up to 228 percent. "We're using CRISPR to build a more sustainable forest," co-corresponding author Rodolphe Barrangou from NC State says in a statement. "CRISPR systems provide the flexibility to edit more than just single genes or gene families, allowing for greater improvement to wood properties."

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.