Synthetic yeast may make better beer – The Oregonian

Right now, the issue brewers face is that a lot of yeasts will produce these amazing flavors, but they may not ferment right.

beeryeast.jpgour heroes: can science make better beer yeast?

From a salon.com artuicle by Sarah Gray:

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University tinkered with snippets of DNA to create the first synthetic yeast chromosome

A team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University genetically engineered an entirely synthetic yeast chromosome, though it is just one out of 16 chromosomes that make up the genome.

Genetically modified organisms are not new; humans have modified plants to be resistant to viruses, or to harm insects. And of course, much needed debate swirls around the consumption of GMOs, and farming practices by generally harmful agro-giants like Monsanto.

In terms of modifying yeast, MIT Technology Review also points out that humans have been manipulating yeast for many thousands of years. The wild fungus has been tamed to help us bake bread and make beer. When scientifically modified, the yeast is used to produce medicine, and biofuel. Simple baker’s yeast was modified to produce tons of artemisinin acid which is then converted into artemisinin, which combats malaria.

A completely synthetic yeast could be genetically altered to create medicine and biofuels, such as corn ethanol, or even change the taste of our beer.

Popular Science’s William Herkewitz  looked into what this means for the brewing industry. Herkewitz spoke to Chris Baugh, a research scientist at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Baugh spoke as a beer researcher and enthusiast and not as a spokesperson for the brewing company. He is excited about the possibilities this new scientific development could hold for the future of beer. He told Herkewitz:

“Right now, the issue brewers face is that a lot of yeasts will produce these amazing flavors, but they may not ferment right. But if you could tailor-make your yeasts, with the understanding of what genes code for the different flavor molecules, well, that opens the doors to the mass production of beer with totally untasted characteristics.”

However, it is unlikely that we’ll be sipping on synthetic yeast beer any time soon. Researchers have not yet synthesized the entire genome, and as of now the public is far from trusting anything GMO.

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