A team of researchers led by Professor Declan Bates from the Warwick
Integrative Synthetic Biology Centre (WISB) and Professor Katherine Denby
from the University of York has developed a genetic control system that
would enable plants to strengthen their defense response against deadly
pathogens so they could remain healthy and productive.
When pathogens attack, they target the plants' immune response, making the
plants vulnerable and weak. Using experimental data generated by Prof.
Denby, Professor Bates' group simulated a pathogen attack in Arabidopsis
plants, and modelled a way to rewire the plants' genenetwork, creating a
defensive feedback control system to fight disease - which works in much the
same way as an aircraft autopilot.
Just as an aircraft's autopilot control system detects disturbances such as
wind gusts or turbulence, and acts to reject them, this new plant control
system detects a pathogen attack, and prevents the pathogen from weakening
the plants' defense response. This method could make crops more resilient
against disease, and help mitigate crop wastage around the world.