Scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana have made a breakthrough in the genetic engineering of yeasts that could bring about the end of the hangover.
The yeast found in wine is what is known as a polyploid gene. This means that the gene appears many times in the genome in perfect copies. Traditionally, these have been impossible to engineer because changing one version of the gene in the genome doesn’t stick – the genome would “correct” the gene that had been changed to match the rest. The scientists, however, have discovered a method for gene splicing that allows them to uniformly modify multiple versions of the gene, taking out the parts that cause hangovers, while keeping or improving other parts of the wine.
Using a sort of reverse engineering, scientists can use an enzyme to modify specific parts of a wine – finding which genes have an impact on flavor, which help with the color – and alter them without fear of the genome self-correcting. Scientists at Urbana have already started to think about the fact that not only can they eliminate hangovers. The lead scientist on the work, Yong-Su Jin, an associate professor of microbial genomics recognizes that they could also make improvements on the health-promoting aspects of wine. In a release he said, “Wine, for instance, contains the healthful component resveratrol. With engineered yeast, we could increase the amount of resveratrol in a variety of wine by ten times or more.”
While this is still a ways in the future, this is another possible reason to put, or keep, wine on your beverage of choice list!