Page last updated: April 20, 2015
Genetic changes to yeast improves nutrition and could eliminate hangover

A yeast engineered by scientists could reduce its toxic by-products, decreasing the risk of a hangover. US scientists have modified the yeast saccharomyces cerevisiae, which is widely used in the wine and beer industries, to produce a GM yeast which they say offers “staggering” improvements in a food’s nutritional value. They claim that the modified yeast could potentially bring an end to hangovers.

The breakthrough was made possible by the development of the “genome knife” method. This new method means that scientists are able to cut out unwanted copies, altering its genes in order to boost a compound’s good qualities and eliminate the bad. “Wine, for instance, contains the healthful component resveratrol. With engineered yeast, we could increase the amount of resveratrol in a variety of wine by 10 times or more,” Jin said. “But we could also add metabolic pathways to introduce bioactive compounds from other foods, such as ginseng, into the wine yeast. Or we could put resveratrolproducing pathways into yeast strains used for beer, kefir, cheese, kimchee, or pickles – any food that uses yeast fermentation in its production.”

The genome knife would also allow scientists to reduce the amount of acetaldehyde produced as one stage in the breakdown of alcohol that can cause hangovers. While the “genome knife” process is still to be perfected, it could result in a future for genetically modified wines, which could give winemakers consistent control over the specific flavour characteristics of their wine.

Source: This paper was published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

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