Researchers have used genetic modification of cassava virus to develop a crop that can withstand the same virus. This result will allow African farmers to save a lot of money.
The African cassava mosaic virus is transmitted between cassava by whiteflies. In eastern and central Africa, the epidemic of mosaic disease may cause a large reduction in production and even loss of grain. So far, the only way to fight this disease is to kill the whitefly with a large amount of pesticides. However, this method requires a lot of money and may threaten the health of the surrounding plants, animals and even farmers. Now Zhang Peng and his colleagues at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have developed a method of using the virus's own genetic material to fight the virus.
Virus replication requires 3 core genes, each carrying a genetic code that encodes a segment of RNA. When paired with the antisense strand, RNA activity is inhibited. According to the structure of the gene researchers can create this antisense chain. Zhang Pengâ€™s research team created an antisense strand of three core RNA strands based on this principle and inserted them into the cassava genome. When the transgenic cassava is infected with the virus, the inserted RNA antisense strand recognizes and binds to the viral RNA strand, inhibiting its activity and preventing it from replicating.
In the experiment, when cassava was exposed to a small dose of virus, no symptoms of mosaic disease were found. When the virus dose is increased, the symptoms of mosaic disease are also lighter than usual. This is of great importance to combating this disease. However, the researchers also believe that although transgenic cassava is more resistant to viruses, it is also necessary to test the effectiveness of this method under natural conditions.
The research team plans to collaborate with researchers in Kenya, Nigeria, the United Kingdom, and the United States to continue this experiment with a view to early application to actual production.
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