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A new CRISPR/Cas9 technique has been developed which could be used to improve crop yields, Phys Org wrote.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology have been using the CRISPR tool – the genetic scissors used in gene editing – to simplify and speed up the development of novel, genetically stable commercial crop varieties, the 3 January report said.

Published in Nature Biotechnology, the technique combined grafting with a “mobile" CRISPR tool.

The technique involved grafting an unmodified shoot onto roots containing a mobile CRISPR/Cas9, which allowed the genetic scissor to move from the root into the shoot. There, it edited the plant DNA without leaving a trace of itself in the next generation of plants.

This discovery would save time, money and circumvent current limitations in plant breeding and contribute to sustainable food solutions across multiple crops, the report said.

“The CRISPR/Cas9 RNA moves in and is converted into the corresponding protein, which is the actual ‘genetic scissors.’ It edits the plant DNA in the flowers. But the CRISPR/Cas 9 system itself is not integrated in the DNA,” Dr Friedrich Kragler, who led the team of scientists, said.

“…The seeds that then develop from these flowers carry only the desired editing. There is no trace of the CRISPR/Cas9 system in the next generation of plants and it works with a surprisingly high efficiency.”

In addition, the new technique would also make it possible to combine different species, the report said.

While the project used Arabidopsis or thale cress as the model plant, the research team also grafted shoots of its commercial relative, oilseed rape, onto Arabidopsis roots that produced the mobile CRISPR/Cas9.

“Our novel gene editing system can be used efficiently for many breeding programs and crop plants. This includes many agricultural important plant species that are difficult or impossible to modify with existing methods,” Dr Kragler added.