JUN 24, 2019 5:42 PM PDT

Using CRISPR to Improve Agriculture

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

The CRISPR/Cas9 tool was inspired by a defensive strategy bacteria use against viral invaders. It was brilliantly adapted to be a gene-editing system that’s been applied to many organisms, even people, and has changed biomedical research. Scientists have also been inspired by CRISPR, and have modified it in many different ways to create new techniques. SHERLOCK is one of them; it was developed as a rapid, portable technology that can be used in different areas like disease diagnostics, and now, agriculture.

Image credit: Max Pixel

SHERLOCK, which stands for specific high-sensitivity enzymatic reporter unlocking, can differentiate between gene sequences that differ by only one letter or nucleotide. It was created several years ago and has been refined and improved ever since.

Now, SHERLOCK has been tweaked to detect genetic material in plants for the first time; it can help identify pathogens, pests, and the presence of desirable or undesirable traits. The technique is much more sensitive and is better at multiplexing than current methods. SHERLOCK uses the Cas13 enzyme instead of Cas9 and produces a color change that can be easily assessed when it identifies its target.

Related: New Tools in the CRISPR Arsenal

Reporting in The CRISPR Journal, scientists used SHERLOCK to measure the levels of a gene conferring resistance to glyphosate in soybeans. It was also able to assess multiple plant genes at the same time, all in only fifteen minutes using crude extracts from soybeans.

"This is a great example of the expansion of CRISPR-based technologies beyond genome editing per se, with the use of novel Cas molecular machines for the flexible detection of DNA sequences of interest. The applications extend beyond diagnostics, and the authors show here how this can be broadly applied in agriculture," commented the Editor-in-Chief of The CRISPR Journal, Rodolphe Barrangou, Ph.D.

Learn more about SHERLOCK from the video above by the Broad Institute. The video below describes diagnostic tools that rely on the CRISPR system.


Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Mary Ann Liebert, Inc./Genetic Engineering News, The CRISPR Journal

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
SEP 15, 2020
Cardiology
Dopamine Could Cause Heart Arrhythmia After Heart Failure
SEP 15, 2020
Dopamine Could Cause Heart Arrhythmia After Heart Failure
Everyone knows that friend with a tattoo of a molecule of dopamine. Usually associated with the pleasure response, it is ...
SEP 14, 2020
Health & Medicine
Direct Amplification: Rapid, Extraction-Free RT-qPCR Results
SEP 14, 2020
Direct Amplification: Rapid, Extraction-Free RT-qPCR Results
As the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic continues to rage across the United States and around the globe, the demand for COVID-19 test ...
SEP 25, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Researchers Take Organoids a Step Further
SEP 25, 2020
Researchers Take Organoids a Step Further
The human body is made of many different kinds of cells, which can often be cultured in a lab and studied. However, thos ...
OCT 09, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Proteins Have an Orientation in Plant Cells
OCT 09, 2020
Proteins Have an Orientation in Plant Cells
Just like animals, plants are made of cells that are full of proteins. The proteins in plant cells are often only found ...
OCT 13, 2020
Microbiology
Bacterial Biofilms Can Take on Some Animal-Like Characteristics
OCT 13, 2020
Bacterial Biofilms Can Take on Some Animal-Like Characteristics
Bacteria are everywhere, even inside of our bodies, and they are thought to date back to the early days of life on Earth ...
OCT 22, 2020
Microbiology
SARS-CoV-2 Has Multiple Routes Into Cells
OCT 22, 2020
SARS-CoV-2 Has Multiple Routes Into Cells
Since the pandemic virus SARS-CoV-2 emerged on the scene late last year, it's left a trail of devastation around the glo ...
Loading Comments...