Yeast that has been carefully engineered is the key to producing better tasting wine. As an added bonus, the wine made from the special yeast causes far fewer hangovers. The same technique will also help make better bread or just about any product that depends on yeast better tasting and longer lasting.
American scientists have been able to engineer a new type of yeast – the organic bacteria critical to making wine – that can not only improve the quality of the wine, but also limit the undesired properties of the wine, namely its ability to give us hangovers if we overindulge. Essentially, the team from the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Services (ACES) discovered a genome slicing technique.
This technique allows them to easily remove any unwanted copies of a gene in an organism’s DNA. The team used an enzyme called RNA-guided Cas9 nuclease as their genome knife to cut out the undesired properties of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This yeast is widely used in the production of wine, beer, bread, and other fermented goods.
By precisely engineering the genome of the yeast, the scientists were able to “trim” the yeast as per specifications, explained Yong-Su Jin, one of the team and associate professor of microbial genomics,
“Fermented foods – such as beer, wine, and bread – are made with polyploid strains of yeast, which means they contain multiple copies of genes in the genome. Until now, it’s been very difficult to do genetic engineering in polyploid strains because if you altered a gene in one copy of the genome, an unaltered copy would correct the one that had been changed.”
Being able to fine-tune the yeast at the genetic level for wine production is a breakthrough wine producers have been waiting for ages. Jin speculates that using their engineered yeast they could significantly increase the amount of resveratrol in wine by 10 times or more.
Resveratrol, a natural substance found in the skins of grapes, blueberries, raspberries and mulberries, is suspected to be the key ingredient that imparts health benefits to wine. Moreover, the technique could also be used to clone the enzyme that plays a key role in the process of malolactic fermentation. Improving this process would not only make a smoother wine, but would substantially decelerate the production of the toxic byproducts that are directly or indirectly responsible for hangovers.
The tweaked yeast can be used in multiple different food productions apart from wine production, explained Jin.
“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 resveratrol-producing pathways into yeast strains used for beer, kefir, cheese, kimchee, or pickles – any food that uses yeast fermentation in its production.”
It has been an impossible feat to gulp down multiple glasses of wine and wake up with a clear head the other day. Perhaps, with this new yeast, hangovers could soon be a thing of the past, alongside bread that goes stale quickly.
[Image Credit | Deviant Art]