Scientists Find a Way to Cut Wine Hangovers

It's all in the yeast
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2015 7:57 AM CDT
Updated Mar 18, 2015 9:00 AM CDT
Scientists Find a Way to Cut Wine Hangovers
Could a "genome knife" end your hangover problem?   (AP Photo/Idaho Press-Tribune, Greg Kreller,File)

If wine tends to give you a hangover, science may have a solution, and it starts with a "genome knife." The phrase refers to an enzyme called RNA-guided Cas9 nuclease that's able to knock down a longstanding hurdle to genetic engineering in fermented foods, a researcher at the University of Illinois explains in a press release. It's a little complicated, but the strains of yeast that ferment wine (along with beer and bread) are "polyploid" strains. Those strains "contain multiple copies of genes in the genome," says Yong-Su Jin, whose study was published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology. The difficulty comes into play when you try to alter a gene in one copy of the genome. Essentially, you can't: "An unaltered copy would correct the one that had been changed." The enzyme fixes that problem.

It allows the genetic engineering of polyploid strains, specifically Saccharomyces cerevisiae—which you're more likely to know as baker's yeast, Jove notes. Researchers are calling the engineered result a "jailbreaking" yeast. Engineered yeast could make wine healthier by boosting the amount of a nutrient called resveratrol "by 10 times or more," Jin notes. As for post-booze headaches, the "genome knife" could act on what's known as malolactic fermentation, which can result in hangover-inducing toxic substances. That's good news, though Medical Daily reports that the variety of factors leading to hangovers likely means such a product wouldn't get rid of them completely. (It's not just the genetics involved in winemaking that affect your hangover risk: Your own genes do, too, according to research last year.)

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