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http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/mar/27/designer-chromosome-brewers-yeast-eukaryotic-saccharomyces-cerevisiae

If you haven't heard of this story you have GOT to read it.

"Scientists streamlined organism's DNA and added sequences in first ever creation of an artificial 'eukaryotic' chromosome"

They took brewers' yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and introduced artificial chromosomes into it. Awesome.

From a layman, this sounds to me like it could hold the potential for revolutionizing our hobby. Why genetically engineer brewers' yeast through "selective breeding" when you can inject chromosomes into live yeast and have them reproduce your desired characteristics?

This question boils down to one thing:

Does current science have any idea of what components of the biology of yeast make which desired characteristics of beer?

Or, are we completely unaware of why one strain of yeast imparts some characteristics under certain temperature?

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2 Answers 2

Probably if there are people and companies who have this information in a well defined way, I'd expect them to consider it a "trade secret" before I expected them to publish it to the public domain.

Now this may be a touch opinionated or editorial, but I wonder how much "better" a brewer's yeast could be made to be, considering that they've been bred for at least hundreds or thousands of years already. In the last century, or maybe the last couple centuries, scientists have had things like microscopes and chemical analysis/synthesis to help them. It's possible that injecting genes and chromosomes would be a rather moot point in the context of home-brewing, since so many strains of yeast have already been engineered for so many different characteristics.

There's also the consideration that the final products' characteristics and traits depend on many more factors than just the inherent traits of the yeasts, like which food or fuel they eat, how much of which nutrients are available to them, other agents/compounds/chemicals present that wouldn't be considered food or nutrition, temperature averages and changes and the speed of those changes, physical shock and motion, light and other radiation, etc.

The list goes on, and the plethora of factors provide an effectively limitless variety of possibilities.

This answer of "probably but it's not likely available to us" may not be what you were looking for, you'll have to pardon me.

We -do- live in a very Sci-Fi age in which a large magnitude of information is available to us all, but it's also an information age in which keeping secrets can be pretty important and/or profitable. Considering that, it's possible that things we can already buy like "Turbo Yeast" have had genes injected into their DNA, for all I know. Gene guns have been around for a while, and they've even been obsolete for a time too.

Personally I like it when the yeast I buy says "Non-GMO" right on the package, explicitly stating that there has been no direct injection of genes etc., and almost implying that it is screened against contamination by man-made genetic viruses.

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George Fix wrote the book on it.

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1  
If you're referring to G. Fix's book "Principles of brewing science", it doesn't go into any detail about yeast genetics. –  mdma Mar 30 at 11:16
    
bubsir - if you disagree with mdma's comment, feel free to quote the relevant portion in the comment to provide a more constructive answer. –  BrianV Apr 8 at 15:26

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