Metabolic design of Corynebacterium glutamicum by CRISPR-MAD7
for lycopene production using glucose from straw

Demographic and Agricultural Context

China, home to over 1.43 billion residents in 2023, houses a quarter of the world's population. With 14% of its citizens aged 65 or older, the nation mirrors a global demographic shift where countries with aging populations have grown from 23.5% to 44% between 1950 and 2015. Concurrently, China's agricultural dominance is evident in its leadership in GDP, producing 133 million tons of wheat and significantly contributing to worldwide corn and rice outputs. However, the challenge of managing unused crop residues emerges, posing both environmental and economic concerns.

Global Challenges

The United Nations emphasizes the overarching issue of the global aging population, which impacts sectors like labor, finance, housing, and social security. There's an imperative need to amplify senior health initiatives and promote effective anti-aging medications. Alongside, the annual yield of three billion tons of food worldwide brings forth considerable agricultural waste. The conventional practice of burning residues, particularly straw, harms the environment and entails economic inefficiencies. Thus, innovative, eco-friendly, and economical solutions are paramount for environmental conservation and energy repurposing.

Lycopene as a Solution

In the quest for anti-aging solutions, antioxidants play a pivotal role. However, many synthetic antioxidants are riddled with challenges such as potential organ harm, inadequate heat stability, and diminished efficacy—sometimes just a sixth of their natural counterparts. Lycopene, a naturally occurring antioxidant known for vision protection, emerges as a promising solution. Its potency lies in its robust antioxidant activity, capabilities to reduce lipid oxidation, enhance immune cells, safeguard against oxidative damage, and foster lymphocyte growth, thereby bolstering overall immunity.

Innovative Extraction Method

Currently, lycopene extraction relies on plant extraction, chemical synthesis, and biosynthesis. Plant extraction, despite being natural, can compromise purity due to low lycopene content and heavy reliance on organic solvents, leading to environmental degradation. Chemical synthesis, on the other hand, can introduce toxicity and carcinogenicity, posing safety risks. Our aim is to pivot to a biosynthetic approach, utilizing Corynebacterium glutamicum. By harnessing its straw decomposition products as a carbon source and deploying the CRISPR-MAD7(Cas12a) system, we anticipate a high-yield lycopene output. This method not only addresses the environmental issues stemming from straw burning but also offers a potent antioxidant solution to combat aging-related challenges.