Volume 23. Number 2. 2018

Emerging Techniques for the Rapid Detection of Microorganisms

Since foodborne disease outbreaks can cause massive public health issues, the food industry and regulatory agencies require rapid and nondestructive methods to detect microorganisms and to control food quality.

However, conventional methods such as culture and colony counting, polymerase chain reaction, and immunoassay approaches are laborious, time-consuming and require trained personnel. Thus, the emergence of rapid analytical methods is essential.

A review article published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety examines six spectroscopic and spectral imaging techniques that apply infrared spectroscopy, surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, terahertz time-domain spectroscopy, laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, hyperspectral imaging, and multispectral imaging for microorganism detection.

In general, spectroscopic and spectral imaging techniques can achieve rapid, nondestructive, or label-free detection, rendering them attractive for routine microorganism detection in the food industry. With the development in instruments and algorithms, as well as the integration of microfluidic platforms, the spectroscopic and spectral imaging techniques will provide alternative methods for microorganism detection in the future. IFT Weekly 7 March 2018. Review article.

Brazil Sugar Mills Start Planting GM Sugarcane

Around 100 sugar mills in Brazil have started planting the first commercialized variety of GM sugarcane. Developed by Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira (CTC) to be resistant from cane borer, the GM sugarcane has been initially planted on 400 hectares (988 acres) of land.

Cane borer is a common pest in Brazilian sugar mills, which costs US$1.5 billion of losses and insecticide expense annually. One of the solutions to the pest problem suggested by experts was to plant insect resistant sugarcane. It is projected to improve yields, reduce production cost, and increase profit. In June 2017, the National Biosafety Technical Commission approved Bt sugarcane after proving that the sugar and ethanol obtained from it are identical to the conventional sugarcane. Studies also showed that the Bt gene and protein were completely eliminated from sugarcane products after processing. Environmental studies further showed that Bt sugarcane does not cause negative effects. Crop Biotech Update March 7, 2018 Read more from BIO Smart Brief and CTC.

Vitamin D3 May Help Heal & Prevent Cardiovascular Damage

A study published in the International Journal of Nanomedicine suggests that a little more sunlight might help restore damage to your cardiovascular system. The study shows that vitamin D3—which is made by the body naturally when skin is exposed to the sun—can significantly restore the damage to the cardiovascular system caused by several diseases, including hypertension, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. Vitamin D3 can also be consumed via supplements.

The Ohio University research team has developed methods and systems of measurements using nanosensors to track the impacts of vitamin D3 on single endothelial cells, a vital regulatory component of the cardiovascular system. A major discovery from these studies is that vitamin D3 is a powerful stimulator of nitric oxide (NO), which is a major signaling molecule in the regulation of blood flow and the prevention of the formation of clots. Additionally, vitamin D3 significantly reduced the level of oxidative stress in the cardiovascular system.

Most importantly, these studies suggest that treatment with vitamin D3 can significantly restore the damage to the cardiovascular system caused by several diseases, including hypertension, atherosclerosis, and diabetes, while also reducing the risk of heart attack.

"There are not many, if any, known systems which can be used to restore cardiovascular endothelial cells which are already damaged, and vitamin D3 can do it," said Tadeusz Malinski, distinguished professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio University. "This is a very inexpensive solution to repair the cardiovascular system. We don't have to develop a new drug. We already have it." IFT Weekly. 1 February 2018. Abstract

CRISPR Helps to Ensure the Future of Chocolate Production

Researchers at the Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI) at University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) are involved in a project to ensure that consumers can enjoy chocolate for years to come despite the environmental issues that could make cacao trees extinct. By reducing the amount of land suitable for growing cacao trees, climate change in cacao-growing regions can foster the proliferation of viruses and fungal diseases that kill cacao trees. IGI scientists are using CRISPR technology to stem the spread of disease and make cacao trees sustainable.

CRISPR is a genome-editing system that mimics the process bacteria use to become immune to antagonists such as viruses or antimicrobials. The scientists are tweaking cacao genes to make them resistant to untreatable plant pathogens that further reduce the production of a sweet commodity that is already being limited by shrinking land resources. "Cacao can be afflicted by several devastating conditions," says Brian Staskawicz, a professor of plant and microbial biology at UC Berkeley. "We're developing CRISPR editing technologies to alter the DNA in cacao plants to become more resistant to both viral and fungal diseases." Staskawicz and Myeong-Je Cho, director and principal investigator of the Plant Genomics Transformation Facility at the IGI, are working with a team of scientists that are being funded by Mars Corporation.

The successes the IGI plant genomics team has with gene-edited cacao may be useful for other crops. "Similar strategies should be useful for protecting a variety of plants from infection, including important crops like cassava, rice, and wheat," Staskawicz says. IFT NEXT Newsletter 6 March, 2018

Rice Gene Makes Maize More Productive. Can it do the Same for Other Crops?

In field trials three years ago, biotechnologists showed that they could increase maize productivity by introducing a rice gene into the plant that regulated the accumulation of sucrose in kernels, which also led to more kernels per maize plant. This promising technique is set to do the same for other crops, including wheat and rice.

The rice gene affected the performance of a natural chemical in maize, trehalose 6-phosphate (T6P), which influences sucrose distribution in the plant. But they were keen to discover more intimate details of the relationships governing the increased productivity.

The transgenic maize depressed levels of T6P in the phloem, a major component of the plant's transportation network. This allows more sucrose to move to developing kernels and, serendipitously, increasing rates of photosynthesis, thereby producing even more sucrose for more kernels. The team also looked at the phloem within the plant's reproductive structures which are sensitive to drought. Female kernels abort, but keeping sucrose flowing within the structures prevents this abortion. Crop Biotech Update. 14 February 2018.

More details are available at Rothamsted Research News.

GM Approval Updates

Australia approved the cotton event COT102 (IR) for commercial cultivation.

Australia approved the new DHA Canola (PQ) for commercial cultivation. This new canola event has an altered omega-3 oil content.

South Korea approved the alfalfa event KK179 x J101 (HT + PQ) for food use.

Crop Biotech Update. Feb. 2018

Illegal Donkey Slaughter for their Skins

LWCC Statement

As a result of the unproven belief in some countries in the Far East that a preparation made from donkey skins has medicinal value, donkeys are being slaughtered illegally in Africa for their skins only. Many donkeys are simply stolen, others are bought at a fraction of the price that buyers get for the skins. The donkey plays a vital role in small scale farming communities in rural areas, providing transport of water, wood and other necessities. Thus their virtual disappearance has very serious consequences for these communities. The brutal and criminal way in which these animals are killed is totally unacceptable and constitutes criminal cruelty to animals. Countries like Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia have been active in clamping down on this deplorable activity and South Africa should be equally firm in putting a stop to this cruelty. Red Meat Industry Forum. 20 Feb. 2018.

Snippets - contributions are welcome. Edited and produced by Dr. B Cole. - / Fax +27 (0)86 625 2869 with the help of the Northern Branch Committee.