A Bangladeshi scientist, whose team in Japan is involved in research on plants' root growing capacity under stress conditions, has advocated for exposing the country's new generation of scientists to the wonders of genome editing techniques.
Genome editing, particularly the CRISPR-Cas9 (a most effective editing technique), has unlocked the potential of breeding crops resistant to stresses and diseases in just a couple of years time whereas the conventional breeding process usually takes at least a decade to do the job, explained Dr Abidur Rahman.
Dr Abidur, who teaches at the Department of Plant Bio Science at Japan's Iwate University, was explaining the science of genome editing and the enormous potential it holds, to participants at a workshop held at the Centre for Advanced Research in Science (CARS) of Dhaka University.
Speaking to The Daily Star on the sideline of the workshop organised by the Global Network of Bangladeshi Biotechnologists (GNOBB), Dr Abidur said CRISPR-Cas9 is so far the least expensive, fast and most effective technique of genome editing, which holds a huge prospect of giving remedies to many diseases as well as new crop varieties.
The Daily Star was a media partner of the workshop.
"Our institutions under the national agricultural research system should go for collaborations with global institutions and research labs and universities for acquiring more knowledge on applied sides of genome editing. Our (Bangladeshi) scientists can think of applying the CRISPR-Cas9 in developing crops resistant to salinity and wheat resistant to blast etc," said Abidur who has a state-of-the-art lab named after him -- “The Abidur Lab” at the Iwate University's Agriculture faculty.
The Abidur Lab is engaged in, among other things, understanding the role of auxin (plant hormone) in growth of plants' roots. A better understanding, Abidur hopes, will give them inroads to develop drought-tolerant crop varieties.
His team is also researching on molecular mechanisms of cadmium and cesium toxicity in plants to engineer hyperaccumulator for phytoremediation.
Phytoremediation is the direct use of living green plants for removal, degradation, or containment of contaminants in soils while a hyperaccumulator is a plant capable of growing in soils with very high concentrations of metals, absorbing these metals through their roots, and concentrating extremely high levels of metals in their tissues.
Dr Abidur Rahman, also a former senior postdoctoral researcher at the University of Massachusetts, referred to as many as 45 gene editing applications took place in rice plant and also talked about possibilities of curing HIV, leukaemia through medical applications of genome editing.
Dr Abidur, who served Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute, sits in the editorial boards of three prestigious science journals -- PLOS ONE, Journal of Plant Growth Regulation and Frontiers in Plant Science.
Prof Dr AAMS Arefin Siddique, DU vice chancellor; Dr Kazi M Komoruddin, executive director of Krishi Gobeshona Foundation; Dr Zeba I Seraj, GNOBB president, and Dr Muhammad Manjurul Karim, its general secretary; Dr Mohammad Aslam, postdoctoral fellow of Japan Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS); and Dr Asadulghani, head of biosafety unit of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), spoke at the workshop.
Some 32 participants representing public and private sector research institutions, academia and industries took part.
Genome editing is a type of genetic engineering in which DNA is inserted, deleted or replaced in the genome of a living organism using engineered nucleases, or “molecular scissors”. Genome is the full complement of genetic information that an individual organism inherits from its parents, specially the set of chromosomes and the genes they carry.
CRISPR-Cas9 (Clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats-assisted system) is currently the simplest, most versatile and precise method of genetic manipulation and is therefore causing a buzz in the science world.
One of the world's leading scientific journals the Science selected CRISPR-Cas9 as “2015 Breakthrough of the Year”.
CRISPR-Cas9 inventors -- Jennifer Anne Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier are now most touted candidates for the Nobel prize.