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Kenyan scientists deploy CRISPR to protect bananas from diseases

Researchers from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) scientists in Kenya are looking into genetic modifications to produce more resilient bananas. They used CRISPR/Cas9, a precise but also relatively affordable gene-editing tool.

They focused on a gene called downy mildew resistance 6 (DMR6), a gene that has previously been shown to be important for many plants in fighting disease. During pathogen infection, the expression of this gene works to reduce or suppress the plant’s immune function — so if the gene were to be switched off, the plant’s immune system could be turbocharged.

According to¸ the CRISPR edited plants showed increased resilience to the disease, in some cases by up to 66% more resilient. Other than the increased resilience, there seemed to be no differences.

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