Gene-edited corn has nutrients usually found in meat — here's why that's huge

Gene-edited corn
Shvadchak Vasyl/123RF
Scientists at Rutgers University in New Jersey and China’s Sichuan Academy of Agricultural Sciences have come up with a way to improve the nutritional value of corn using smart gene-editing technology. By adding a single E. coli gene, the corn grows with an essential amino acid that is otherwise available in meat only. The resulting foodstuff could help transform nutrition for people in developing countries, and dramatically reduce worldwide animal feed costs.

The amino acid, methionine, is crucial for things like growth and tissue repair, while the sulfur found in methionine also protects cells from pollutants and slows the cells’ aging process. Because of its importance, a synthetic form of methionine is therefore added to field corn seed in a highly expensive process.

“What is [limited] in arable land has to be added as chemicals,” Dr. Joachim Messing, the study’s senior author, told Digital Trends. “Sulfur content in the soil is variable and usually not optimal for making seeds more nutritious. We have found a way that the plant can use the amount that is there more effectively. Instead of depending on fossil fuels to synthesize a supplement — in this case methionine — in a factory, the sun can do it now through the plant itself. This switch saves billions of dollars added to our food costs.”

Using the gene editing, methionine in the new corn kernels was found to have increased by 57 percent. In trials involving chickens, those chickens which ate the genetically engineered corn grew significantly faster than those that did not. “The level of improvement is best illustrated by the fact that no supplement will be needed,” Messing continued. The researchers also didn’t observe a yield loss with the growing of the new corn crops.

In the future, they hope to discover a way to grow corn containing this amino acid without resorting to genetic engineering. This might be possible by feeding plants with different types of fertilizer. They also want to replace another supplement in maize, called lysine, which is also important for growth. (And, for pop trivia fans, is the amino acid the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are genetically altered so they will not reproduce.)

A paper describing this research was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Health & Fitness

JLABS injects some tech into the medical industry

Innovating health care is expensive, risky, and complicated legally. One company is trying to remove these barriers with clever and altruistic approach.
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.
Gaming

Everything we know about 'Anthem', including new details on Javelin classes

BioWare announced an upcoming action role-playing game called 'Anthem' at EA Play 2017. Here's everything we know about the game so far, including gameplay, DLC, and when you'll be able to play it.
Home Theater

PlayStation Vue adds more local channels, bringing the total to over 600

PlayStation Vue is Sony's answer to live TV without the need for a cable or satellite TV subscription. To help you understand the service, its plans, and numerous features, we've created this handy guide.
Emerging Tech

Bottle-flipping robots may be the most millennial thing we’ve ever seen

Until drones start vaping, you're unlikely to see anything more millennial than a recent contest in Japan in which robots competed to pull off some seriously impressive bottle-flipping feats.
Emerging Tech

New simulation shows how Elon Musk’s internet satellite network might work

Elon Musk has the dream of building a network for conveying internet traffic via thousands of satellites. A new simulation created by a computer scientist looks at how feasible the idea is.
Cars

Car parts maker ZF is using drones to deliver components to its factories

ZF recently became the first entity in Germany to receive approval to use drones to deliver spare parts, and the company now uses them to deliver parts from its central warehouses to its workshops.
Emerging Tech

This fully autonomous $400 drone folds like a book, follows you like a paparrazzo

Having a drone that could follow you everywhere while taking high-quality images without crashing has been a flight of fantasy. With ZeroZero's Hover 2, not only can you have a fully autonomous 4K selfie drone, you can have it for $400.
Emerging Tech

These Alexa-stuffed retro phones don’t listen until you take them off the hook

Looking for an Amazon Echo with a cool vintage touch? Los Angeles-based Grain Design is taking old, non-working antique phones and transforming them into amazing Alexa smart speakers.
Smart Home

This alarm clock uses targeted light and sound to wake you, but not your partner

The Wake v2 isn't like your typical bedside alarm. Instead, it wakes you by shining a soft light directly into your face, thereby not disturbing the person sharing a bed with you. Pretty smart, huh?
Emerging Tech

Believe it or not, this fire-proof exoskeleton isn’t designed for space marines

A company called Levitate Technologies has developed a fire-resistant upper body exoskeleton that’s capable of lowering exertion levels by up to 80 percent when you carry out manual work.
Emerging Tech

Intel’s new ‘neural network on a stick’ aims to unchain A.I. from the internet

To kick off its first developer conference in Beijing, Intel unveiled the second generation of its Neural Compute Stick -- a device that promises to democratize the development of computer vision A.I. applications.
Emerging Tech

Frogs regrow ‘paddle-like’ limbs when placed in a bioreactor

Frogs have partially regrown amputated limbs thanks to a bioreactor at Tufts University. By jump-starting tissue repair, the bioreactor helped the amphibians regenerate a bigger, more complete appendages than they usually do.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.