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January 2003
Research: Safer way to gen-modify crops
Genetically modified chloroplasts.
Genetically modified chloroplasts.
Researchers have discovered safer way of genetically modifying crops. The findings may have big impact on agriculture in developing countries
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Leicester University's Department of Biology
The Rockefeller University, New York
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FACTS

People have tried for a long time to add genes to the chloroplast and adapt the levels of proteins in them.

The Leicester University research involves genetically controlled enlarging of the chloroplasts.

Researchers can then blast the
m more efficiently with DNA attached to gold particles encoding valuable proteins followed by re-manipulation of the division process.

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New research from Leicester University has discovered how to modify crops genetically without playing hazard with the environment.

Researchers have found a way to manipulate chloroplasts, which make plants green, and generate oxygen in the photosynthesis process.

The findings may have major impact, particularly on countries in the developing world because researchers may now be able to improve crops without producing unwanted superseeds.

Dr Simon Geir Møller of the University of Leicester's Department of Biology said the new techniques in plant chloroplast division held hope for agriculture.

"The main advantage is that chloroplasts are not spread by pollen, so there is no environmental hazard in plants genetically modified in this way".

"In other words there wouldn't be any cross-pollination or the development of unwanted 'superweeds'. The gene basically dies with the plant," he said.

Dr Møller’s team of researchers has been working to examine how chloroplasts divide in plants.

By comparing cell division in the E. coli bacterium with the way chloroplasts divide, the team has isolated a new protein in the plant Arabidopsis called AtMinE1.

They have then shown that this protein represents an evolutionary conserved link between bacterial division and chloroplast division.

Dr Møller has carried out the research together with colleagues at the Laboratory of Plant Molecular Biology at the Rockefeller University in New York.

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