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Creating a synthetic yeast to brew stronger beers and biofuels

Yeast2There’s nothing like taking on two big lobby groups simultaneously, which is what some scientists are about to do by creating a synthetic yeast. Yeast only has about 6,000 genes, making it simpler than larger life-forms. After a worldwide team synthesizes the 16 chromosomes needed, pieces of DNA will be designed on computers before being inserted into a yeast cell to replace its own DNA. The Telegraph reveals that this will enable stronger beers to be brewed by designing yeast strains to be more alcohol-resistant.

The anti-drink lobby will have a field day on this, since they have been campaigning for drinks to be weaker, not stronger. Environmentalists who have made money and attracted members by running groundless scare campaigns against genetically modified organisms will no doubt also howl with collective outrage at the creation of synthetic life-forms. The BBC story concentrates on the industrial applications there might be in making vaccines, biofuels and chemicals, but this is unlikely to mollify the critics. The government has put up nearly £1m to fund the research, so they will come in for some stick as well. The scientists might be well advised to keep quiet about the locations in which this research is to be carried out, since the mindless luddites have already shown they are quite prepared to use violence to stop research.

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One Response

  1. Your comments about synthetic yeast research is very interesting. I mentioned in a previous comment about an experience I had with yeast and home brewing. I am sure you will be aware that all yeasts are not the same and this is true of the brewing industry who keep their yeasts a very closely guarded secret . Many years ago after several attempts at home beer making, I found that some commercial bottled beers left live yeast in the empty bottles after drinking. If water, sugar and warmth was added to the near empty bottle……bingo, a yeast culture was produced. Worthington E worked like a dream. The home brew was definitely superior to the version which used the Home Brew Shop variety of yeast. Who knows, we could be in for a real treat with new beers tasting like a delivery from outer space.

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