Modifying Yeast In Wine Could Lead To Fewer Hangovers

Roses are red, and so is wine.

We've all been there.

What begins as a fun night drinking wine with friends fades into a "I'm never drinking again" morning where you curse all of the life choices you have ever made. 

Thankfully, those days may be numbered, all thanks to science.

Researchers from the University of Illinois are working on modifying yeast used to ferment wine in order to make a product that is considerably more heart-healthy and could even reduce hangover headaches.

"Fermented foods--such as beer, wine, and bread--are made with polyploid strains of yeast, which means they contain multiple copies of genes in the genome. 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," Principal Investigator Yong-Su Jin from the University of Illinois said in a press release

Yong-Su Jin and his team have found a way around this obstacle by using an enzyme called RNA-guided Cas9 nuclease.

This precise gene-editing technique will also allow researchers to better understand all of the functions of each gene through experimentation. By having a firm handle on function and a precise method of genetic modification, the possibilities are endless for making food with more desirable qualities.

For instance, they could boost quantities of healthy molecules.

Red wine contains an antioxidant known as resveratrol, which research suggests decreases the risk of developing cancer, heart disease, and a number of other diseases. Yong-Su Jin's team believes that modifying the yeast with their new genetic knife will target the cellular processes responsible for making resveratrol compounds, increasing production by about ten times.

This is pretty impressive, and will make you feel even better about drinking that glass of vino.

If being heart-smart isn’t enough to get you on board, you might be interested in waking up the morning after drinking without feeling like death warmed over.

The same technique used to boost resveratrol can be used to soften the effect of molecules in the wine that cause hangover headaches.

This method also doesn't rely on biomarkers from antibiotics in order to target specific parts of the gene. There are some concerns that antibiotics used this way could contribute to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. With the technique from Yong-Su Jin's lab, this concern is eliminated, making it safer for use in food.

Wine isn’t the only food that is fermented by yeast, which suggests that this new technique could be used to boost resveratrol or other healthy compounds in a number of other dietary staples as well.

"But we could also add metabolic pathways to introduce bioactive compounds from other foods, such as ginseng, into the wine yeast. Or we could put resveratrol-producing pathways into yeast strains used for beer, kefir, cheese, kimchee, or pickles--any food that uses yeast fermentation in its production," Yong-Su Jin continued in the press release.

Of course, even if this wine does hit the market and is capable of boosting antioxidant properties while limiting the negative effects of hangovers, you will still need to be careful. While resveratrol might be good for your heart, alcohol is still pretty hard on the liver, so don't get too carried away quite yet.

[Header image credit: Tuned_in, iStockphoto]