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Researcher expands plant genome editing with newly engineered variant of CRISPR-Cas9 – Phys.org

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Alongside Dennis van Engelsdorp, associate professor at the University of Maryland (UMD) in Entomology named for the fifth year in a row for his work in honey bee and pollinator health, Yiping Qi, associate professor in Plant Science, represented the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources on the Web of Science 2020 list of Highly Cited Researchers for the first time. This list includes influential scientists based on the impact of their academic publications over the course of the year. In addition to this honor, Qi is already making waves in 2021 with a new high-profile publication in Nature Plants introducing SpRY, a newly engineered variant of the famed gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9. SpRY essentially removes the barriers of what can and can’t be targeted for gene editing, making it possible for the first time to target nearly any genomic sequence in plants for potential mutation. As the preeminent innovator in the field, this discovery is the latest of Qi’s in a long string of influential tools for genome editing in plants.

“It is an honor, an encouragement, and a recognition of my contribution to the science community,” says Qi of his distinction as a 2020 Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher. “But we are not just making contributions to the academic literature. In my lab, we are constantly pushing for improved gene editing out to scientists to make an impact.”

With SpRY, Qi is especially excited for the limitless possibilities it opens up for genome editing in and crops. “We have largely overcome the major bottleneck in plant genome editing, which is the targeting scope restrictions associated with CRISPR-Cas9. With this new toolbox, we pretty much removed this restriction, and we can target almost anywhere in the plant genome.”

The original CRISPR-Cas9 that kicked off the gene editing craze was tied to targeting a specific short sequence of DNA known as a PAM sequence. The short sequence is what the CRISPR systems typically use to identify where to make their molecular cuts in DNA. However, the new SpRY variant introduced by Qi can move beyond these traditional PAM sequences in ways that was never possible before.

“This unleashes the full potential of CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing for plant genetics and crop improvement,” says an excited Qi. “Researchers will now be able to edit anywhere within their favorable , without questioning whether the sites are editable or not. The new tools make genome editing more powerful, more accessible, and more versatile so that many of the editing outcomes which were previously hard to achieve can now be all realized.”

According to Qi, this will have a major impact on translational research in the gene editing field, as well as on crop breeding as a whole. “This new CRISPR-Cas9 technology will play an important role in food security, nutrition, and safety. CRISPR tools are already widely used for introducing tailored mutations into crops for enhanced yield, nutrition, biotic and abiotic stress resistance, and more. With this new tool in the toolbox, we can speed up evolution and the agricultural revolution. I expect many plant biologists and breeders will use the toolbox in different crops. The list of potential applications of this new toolbox is endless.”


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More information:
Qiurong Ren et al, PAM-less plant genome editing using a CRISPR–SpRY toolbox, Nature Plants (2021). DOI: 10.1038/s41477-020-00827-4

Citation:
Researcher expands plant genome editing with newly engineered variant of CRISPR-Cas9 (2021, January 22)
retrieved 22 January 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-01-genome-newly-variant-crispr-cas9.html

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no
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NASA’s new rover to pave way for manned Mars missions, says Skoltech scientist – TASS

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MOSCOW, February 19. /TASS/. The experiments that NASA’s Perseverance rover will conduct on Mars will pave the way for a human landing on the Red Planet, Director of the Skoltech Space Center Anton Ivanov told TASS on Friday.

“The Perseverance rover will carry out experiments that are crucial for testing ideas related to resource extraction and future Mars missions. In general, the rover’s research program will help pave the way for a human landing on Mars and get a better understanding on whether life could have ever developed there,” the researcher pointed out.

The United States’ Perseverance rover touched down on Mars in Jezero Crater overnight into Friday and sent several images of the Red Planet to Earth. The main goals of the mission are to figure out if the planet used to be habitable in the past and search for traces of life.

From a technical standpoint, Perseverance is almost entirely similar to NASA’s previous car-sized Mars rover named Curiosity. However, the new vehicle isn’t equipped with a device similar to Russia’s DAN spectrometer, which was installed on Curiosity and played a crucial role in finding traces of water in Gale Crater. According to Ivanov, the absence of such a device will affect the rover’s activities but won’t hinder efforts to find signs of previous life on Martian soil.

“The Russian device installed on Curiosity collected a large amount of data that our researchers are now analyzing. Perseverance carries a ground-penetrating radar that will make it possible to define soil stratigraphy to a depth of up to ten meters,” the Russian scientist emphasized.

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NASA's Perseverance Rover Gets to Work on the Surface of Mars – UPI.com

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This is the first high-resolution, color image to be sent back by the Hazard Cameras (Hazcams) on the underside of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover after its landing on February 18, 2021. A key objective for Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, paving the way for human exploration of the Red Planet and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust). In cooperation with ESA (the European Space Agency), subsequent NASA missions would send spacecraft to Mars to collect these cached samples from the surface and return them to Earth for in-depth analysis. NASA/UPI

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China's Mars craft enters parking orbit before landing rover – Phys.org

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People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus look at a model depicting a rover on Mars during an exhibition at a shopping mall in Beijing on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. China says its Tianwen-1 spacecraft has entered a temporary parking orbit around Mars in anticipation of landing a rover on the red planet in the coming months. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

China says its Tianwen-1 spacecraft has entered a temporary parking orbit around Mars in anticipation of landing a rover on the red planet in the coming months.

The China National Space Administration said the spacecraft executed a maneuver to adjust its orbit early Wednesday morning Beijing time and will remain in the new orbit for about the next three months before attempting to land. During that time, it will be mapping the surface of Mars and using its cameras and other sensors to collect further data, particularly about its prospective landing site.

That follows the landing of the U.S. Perseverance rover last Thursday near an ancient river delta in Jezero Crater to search for signs of ancient microscopic life.

A successful bid to land Tianwen-1 would make China only the second country after the U.S. to place a spacecraft on Mars. China’s solar-powered vehicle, about the size of a golf cart, will collect data on underground water and look for evidence that the planet may have once harbored microscopic life.

Tianwen, the title of an ancient poem, means “Quest for Heavenly Truth.”

Landing a spacecraft on Mars is notoriously tricky. About a dozen orbiters missed the mark. In 2011, a Mars-bound Chinese orbiter that was part of a Russian mission didn’t make it out of Earth orbit.

China's Mars craft enters parking orbit before landing rover
A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus tours an exhibition displaying models depicting a spacecraft and rovers on Mars at a shopping mall in Beijing on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. China says its Tianwen-1 spacecraft has entered a temporary parking orbit around Mars in anticipation of landing a rover on the red planet in the coming months. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

China’s attempt will involve a parachute, rocket firings and airbags. Its proposed landing site is a vast, rock-strewn plain called Utopia Planitia, where the U.S. Viking 2 lander touched down in 1976.

Tianwen-1’s arrival at Mars on Feb. 10 was preceded by that of an orbiter from the United Arab Emirates. All three of the latest missions were launched in July to take advantage of the close alignment between Earth and Mars that happens only once every two years.

Tianwen-1 represents the most ambitious mission yet for China’s secretive, military-linked space program that first put an astronaut in orbit around Earth in 2003 and last year brought back to Earth for the first time since the 1970s. China was also the first country to land a on the little-explored far side of the moon in 2019.

  • China's Mars craft enters parking orbit before landing rover
    This file image made available by the China National Space Administration on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, shows the Tianwen-1 probe en route to Mars. China said on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021, that its Tianwen-1 spacecraft has entered a temporary parking orbit around Mars in anticipation of landing a rover on the red planet in the coming months. (CNSA via AP, File)
  • China's Mars craft enters parking orbit before landing rover
    People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of the coronavirus tour an exhibition displaying models depicting a spacecraft and rovers on Mars at a shopping mall in Beijing on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. China says its Tianwen-1 spacecraft has entered a temporary parking orbit around Mars in anticipation of landing a rover on the red planet in the coming months. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
  • China's Mars craft enters parking orbit before landing rover
    A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of the coronavirus tours an exhibition displaying models depicting a spacecraft and rovers on Mars at a shopping mall in Beijing on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. China says its Tianwen-1 spacecraft has entered a temporary parking orbit around Mars in anticipation of landing a rover on the red planet in the coming months. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

China is also building a permanent and planning a crewed lunar mission and a possible permanent research base on the moon, though no dates have yet been proposed.

On Monday, a massive Long March-5B Y2 rocket was moved into place at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan province for assembly and testing before it launches the space station’s core module, christened Tianhe. Launch is scheduled for the first half of this year, the first of 11 missions slated over the next two years for the station’s construction.

China is not a participant in the International Space Station, partly at the insistence of the United States.

The space program is a source of enormous national pride in China and Tianwen-1 has attracted a particularly strong following among the public. Tourists flocked to tropical Hainan island to watch the launch, while others visit mock Mars colonies in desert sites with white domes, airlocks and spacesuits.


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© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Citation:
China’s Mars craft enters parking orbit before landing rover (2021, February 24)
retrieved 24 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-china-mars-craft-orbit-rover.html

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no
part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

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