Scientists may have just found the secret to hangover-free wine

Revellers celebrate the 'Chupinazo' at the beginning of the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain
Revellers celebrate the 'Chupinazo' at the beginning of the San Fermin Festival in Pamplona, Spain

In news that will make you rejoice, scientists say they have engineered a "jailbreaking" yeast that could greatly reduce the toxic byproducts in wine that cause a hangover.

Researchers from the University of Illinois have used a "genome knife" to carry out extremely precise metabolic engineering of yeast strains which are widely used in the wine, beer and other fermentation industries, according to Eurekalert.

Until now, it's been very difficult to do genetic engineering in polyploid strains because if you altered a gene in one copy of the genome, an unaltered copy would correct the one that had been changed.

  • Yong-Su Jin, University of Illinois

According to the researchers, who published their work in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal, the possibilities of improved nutritional values being added to the product through this new type of engineering are "staggering".

Wine, for instance, contains the healthful component resveratrol. With engineered yeast, we could increase the amount of resveratrol in a variety of wine by 10 times or more.

  • Yong-Su Jin, University of Illinois

Because the "genome knife" allows such precise incisions, scientists are able to identify genes that create very specific characteristics.

Say we have a yeast that produces a wine with great flavour and we want to know why. We delete one gene, then another, until the distinctive flavour is gone, and we know we've isolated the gene responsible for that characteristic.

  • Yong-Su Jin, University of Illinois

A potential benefit to winemakers therefore is the altering of malolactic fermentation - a secondary fermentation process that makes wine smooth but can also generate toxic byproducts that lead to the morning after headache.

Watch this space.

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