Beating the heat is one of the goals most vigorously pursued by plant geneticists. A solution is not yet in sight, but after so many years of research, it is clear that there are several avenues worth exploring. The three most important things are testing, testing, testing. The first consideration is that plants can adopt different strategies to survive when water is scarce. You can distinguish between drought resistance and water use efficiency, or go subtle by talking about drought avoidance, drought escape, and drought tolerance. Another basic premise is that drought can vary in intensity and duration, so that a plant capable of tolerating moderate stress may still succumb under more extreme conditions. Further complicating matters is the fact that, to be adopted by farmers, future crops will have to prove not only more resilient but also as productive as the varieties they are intended to replace. Two strategies are being pursued at the University of Milan with the help of CRISPR.
Emanuele and Erika Guarini are brother and sister. They were treated for thalassemia respectively in November 2020 and August 2021 by the team of Franco Locatelli at Bambin Gesù hospital in Rome. Before the CRISPR-based treatment, they needed a blood transfusion every 15-20 days (source La Repubblica).
CRISPeR Frenzy is pleased to publish the full text of the presentation held on June 6 by Michele Morgante (Università degli Studi di Udine) at the Virtual Workshop on Innovative Biotechnologies and Regulatory Approaches organized by the US Embassy in Rome and USDA.
You may have heard of the recent European Commission report on the New Genomics Techniques. But you probably don’t know how member states answered the related questionnaire. ““Could NGT-related research bring opportunities/benefits to science, to society and to the agri-food, medicinal or industrial sector?”. This and more in my news feature for Nature Italy.
What should I be when I grow up? The DNA-tailor aka gene-editor is among the cool jobs of the future suggested by this book for children published in Italy. Explaining CRISPR to kids is fun. Wired did it in 2007, and the New York Timesfollowed soon (see below).
What’s the right way to regulate edited-plants? The question still waits for an answer in Brussels, and debate goes on in Europe.
According to Reuters, France backs non-GMO regulation for crop gene-editing in the EU. Gene editing of crops and livestock may soon be permitted in England, says the Guardian. Parliamentary commissions divided on new breeding techniques, media report in Italy. For a comparative viewpoint of regulatory frameworks globally, see the recent “Genome editing for crop improvement” by All European Academies.
Look at this map, from a detailed and up-to-date analysis published in the CRISPR Journal. It’s the global policy landscape on heritable human editing, i.e., modified embryos transferred to a uterus to initiate a pregnancy. Who would expect a catholic country like Italy to stand out as one of the very few countries not totally prohibiting such a controversial practice?
The research institute CREA is experimenting with CRISPR to improve Italian typical products. The project called BIOTECH is funded with 6 million euros from the Italian ministry of agriculture. Wheat, tomatoes, vines, fruits and more are on the menu, as reported by me in a 6-pages feature published in Le Scienze, the national edition of Scientific American. Continue reading →
It won’t be a candy bar like the one in the picture, but it will be the first CRISPR snack ever eaten in Italy and among the first in the world. A taste of rice edited in Milan, according to rumors. The initiative, organized by The Luca Coscioni Association for freedom of scientific research, will take place on September 18 at 10 am, in front of the Italian Parliament. The first CRISPR meal ever served was a tête-à-tête between a scientist and a journalist in Sweden in September 2016. A month later Calyxt hosted a dinner made with food edited with a different biotech tool in a famous restaurant in Manhattan. The Italian snack is different, however, because of its public nature and political aim. It’s a call to politicians, journalists and scientists to engage in the regulatory debate about genome editing after the EU Court of Justice ruled that edited plants are GMOs. GM field trials are banned in Italy and CRISPR represents a much-needed second chance for geneticists to get out of the impasse.