Plants May Eventually Benefit From Reprogrammable “Genetic Circuits” to Adapt to Climate Change

Source: Yuji Sakai

Geneticists at Stanford University are working on rewriting crops to make them more resistant to climate change. They do that by modifying the structure and depth of the crops’ developing root systems.

Read out below to find out more intriguing facts.

Plants vs. Climate Change: Where To?

Stanford University geneticists have developed a method for precisely regulating the shape of plant roots as they expand and branch. That’s quite spectacular.

Such a thing could also change many perspectives and theories. Would it be possible?

To start with, crops may be better able to absorb phosphorus close to the surface if their roots are shallower. At the same time, a more profound root system may be more effective in capturing water and nitrogen.

Jennifer Brophy, a bioengineer at Stanford University and part of the new study, released a statement:

Our synthetic genetic circuits are going to allow us to build very specific root systems or very specific leaf structures to see what is optimal for the challenging environmental conditions that we know are coming.

That’s just great!

Moreover, Brophy and her team’s highly precise genetic methods may reprogram plants more quickly than they could respond naturally. It would also be more accurate and turn out to be grown for desired qualities.

Study insights

Researchers built a synthetic genetic circuit that regulated gene expression using cells from a tobacco plant and demonstrated how it functions in a different plant. That’s something incredible!

The best part is that it resembles a computer code with logic gates. The only difference is that the proper input values can penetrate the entrance and produce an output.

Take a look at the picture below:

Source: Jennifer Brophy/Standford University

You can also imagine some electrical circuits with switches, just like the ones that power your phone!

Furthermore, the team stated that it could control the growth of a plant called Arabidopsis thaliana by building a set of synthetic logic gates for a single gene linked to lateral root development. Next, the researchers adjusted the density of branches in the plant’s root system so it won’t affect any other root characteristics.

Thus, scientists can influence which genes are expressed by which cells in a plant, thereby altering the plant’s growth.

In the future, we will see more of that as the researchers intend to check their reprogrammed genetic circuits on sorghum, a unique grain with the potential for ethanol. Why would they want to do that?

The team stated that they want to boost sorghum’s photosynthesis and increase its capacity for water absorption.

The potential uses of that genetic method are endless but only if it proves successful. However, crop reprogramming via artificial genetic circuits will need to be done with great caution!

Georgia Nica
Writing was, and still is my first passion. I love all that cool stuff about science and technology. I'll try my best to bring you the latest news every day.