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Biotechnology generates alternatives to climate change

Using genetic engineering, a biotechnologist develops drought-tolerant soybean plants and receives awards.

Climate change has proven to be one of the greatest threats to agricultural sustainability and productivity worldwide, and soybean cultivation is no exception. Increasing global average temperatures, occurrences of extreme weather events, and water stress have significantly affected this economically and nutritionally valuable crop.

To mitigate the effects of water stress on soybean cultivation, efforts include the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices, particularly the use of biotechnology to generate genetic variability and offer more resilient plants to these effects.

And it is in this context that biotechnologist Luanna Pinheiro de Albuquerque Freitas Bezerra - a Ph.D. student in the Program in Genomic Sciences and Biotechnology at the Catholic University of Brasília (UCB) - has been developing her thesis under the guidance of Dr. Maria Fátima Grossi-de-Sá at Embrapa Genetic Resources and Biotechnology / CENARGEN.

According to Luanna, "the study provides innovative strategies and a biotechnological solution for the development of superior soybean cultivars, thus mitigating the negative effects on productivity generated by drought stress."

Using precision genetic engineering, Luanna aims to suppress the death of soybean plant cells when they are in a drought situation. The project has two strategies. In the first strategy, a system was developed for the overexpression of the GmBiP gene via dCas9-VP64. The second strategy involves a non-transgenic alternative for the development of drought-tolerant soybean. For this purpose, the GmNAC030 gene was knocked out via CRISPR/Cas9.

And the results obtained by Luanna have already earned her two awards. In 2022, the project came in second place at the XXVI Student Talent Meeting of Embrapa Genetic Resources and Biotechnology, Post-graduate level. In 2023, presenting the results of your thesis, Luanna received an honorable mention at the VIII Brazilian Symposium on Molecular Genetics of Plants.

The poster titled: "Precision genetic engineering for drought tolerance in soybeans and its effects on the programmed cell death pathway of the endoplasmic reticulum" was among the best among all the posters at the Symposium.

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