Delicious, low-alcohol beer thanks to CRISPR-Cas

Published on
June 24, 2019

Shouldn’t low-alcohol beer taste just as good as normal beer? In a recent publication, Richard Notebaart of Wageningen University & Research and Rodolphe Barrangou of North Carolina State University describe their research into CRISPR-Cas techniques in order to improve the fermentation processes of foods as well as the food safety of dairy products.

CRISPR-Cas is a technique that allows researchers to alter the DNA of bacteria, plants, etc. very precisely. The technique has already been put to the test frequently in the plant sciences: crops can be modified in such a way that they are better able to handle disease and drought. This could be of great importance for food production, especially in developing countries.

Little alcohol, lots of flavour

CRISPR-Cas even has a great deal of potential in food hygiene and microbiology, such as in fermentation processes. For example, the demand for beer with a low alcohol percentage continues to increase and producers are trying to recreate the flavour of “normal” beer as closely as possible. That is easier said than done, because some of the flavour is a result of fermentation, which is when the alcohol is produced as well.

Richard Notebaart is using the CRISPR-Cas technique to deactivate enzymes in yeast by cutting their genes. Notebaart’s research has come so far that the flavour production can be modified and linked to a decrease in alcohol. Following on from these results, the research has now been expanded to include special yeast strains that he will test further for aroma and alcohol production.

Preventing food poisoning and infections

Fellow researcher Rodolphe Barrangou of North Carolina State University is applying the CRISPR technique in order to make dairy products less susceptible to viruses. This allows him to very selectively deactivate the DNA of pathogens, disabling their growth, while enabling the growth of beneficial micro-organisms. Barrangou and Notebaart’s ultimate goal is to prevent food poisoning and infections using CRISPR-Cas and, in turn, improve food safety.