[MUSIC PLAYING] MATTHEW WILLMANN: My name is Matthew Willmann. I'm the director of the Plant Transformation Facility at Cornell University. My role in the QTL Editing Project is that I'm the guy who actually makes the edited plants.
So we are actually in the Plant Transformation Facility right now in one of our two growth rooms. This is where all of the rice work happens. We make transgenic and genome editing plants to benefit researchers on Cornell's campus and collaborators we have around the world.
And we focus on several main crops. We work on rice, specifically, to benefit this project. We also work on maize, on wheat, on apple, industrial hemp. And we're about to start work on grape.
We are in my lab using CRISPR as a tool to actually remove sequence or to add sequence. And we're mostly focused on removing sequence. And we're removing genes or sequences that have a negative effect on things like disease resistance or the ability for a plant to grow in drought or very saline conditions, essentially with the goal in the end of trying to understand how we can make more resistant plants for farmers more resistant to bacterial pathogens and to various stresses that are becoming more and more of a problem due to climate change.
We go through a process where we start with immature rice seedlings. And we put them on a media that causes part of the embryo to make an undifferentiated tissue that we call callus. And that is what you see here in yellow.
After two weeks, this becomes this. And you get this massive amount of callus. We chop this up and we combine it with agrobacterium that has the genes that we want to put in the plant.
After we do that, we put them on a medium that includes the selection agent. So in this case, we're using hygromycin. And what happens is that any cells that received the transgene, those cells will continue to live and divide. And the cells that did not become transgenic will actually be killed.
So what you're seeing here is most of the tissue actually looks brown. But you'll see these clusters or clumps of yellowish white callus. And each clump originated from one single cell that was made transgenic for all of those genes. And then over time, it started Dividing
What we do over time is after we have enough callus from each of those events, we put them on a specific medium that causes some of those cells to actually start making shoots. So you can see, this is a very early one. IT has some tiny spots of green. This one over here you actually see full leaves.
After we have these leaves, we put them in another medium that causes them to make roots. And so when we get to this point, these plants then go out to the greenhouse. I take them to Sandy, and Sandy transfers them to soil.
And then we take a snippet of tissue from each of these plants to actually genotype to see which of those seedlings are actually edited that have the edit and the desired gene, whether it is a gene for disease resistance or abiotic stress responses.
As part of this grant, we're going to be publishing a paper that essentially talks about an accumulated set of results about all the work that came out of my lab to give people who work on rice at other institutions in the US and around the world a better sense of what you need to actually do these sorts of experiments, what success rates do you have.
At the time this grant was first funded by the National Science Foundation, gene editing using CRISPR was very, very new. It was one of the first big projects to actually try and use CRISPR to study and improve plants.
As a result of this project, we have a much greater understanding of how to do all of this in rice. And so we are at a much different place than we were at the beginning.
We essentially now are at the point where we can turn out an edited plant much, much faster for someone. And with the hope that we can continue using these tools to better understand problems faced by growers, and to provide growers with better material.
And I think this grant provided a wonderful starting point for allowing us to do that, and to do it in a very rapid way.
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Dr. Matthew Willmann gives us a brief look at the work the Plant Transformation Facility is doing to help researchers learn more about rice and gene editing. The work is supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Bogdanove Lab. Wilmann's team uses gene editing to help produce basic knowledge and best-practices for plant transformation to scientists develop better varieties of rice for the world's farmers.