Scientists Are Working On Hangover-Free Wine Made With Designer Yeast

Imagine drinking a whole bottle of chardonnay on a night out and waking up feeling refreshed instead of regretful. It sounds like a party animal and wine lover's dream come true. Scientists at the University of Illinois' Energy Biosciences Institute have developed a new type of yeast that produces wine with no hangover. In fact, it increases the health benefits of wine, while dialing back on the toxic side effects. They're calling it "jailbreaking yeast."

"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," said Yong-Su Jin, associate professor of microbial genomics and principal investigator in the Energy Biosciences Institute, in a statement.

In layman's terms, the geneticists have taken a "genome knife" that cuts across multiple copies of a gene, and used it to metabolically alter the genetic outcomes, altering the toxic side effects of wine consumption and enhancing resveratrol, the chemical in wine that has been found to have nutritious properties. The yeast would, in effect, be created from "designed mutations," with specified alterations created by researchers who hold the genome knife.

"With engineered yeast, we could increase the amount of resveratrol in a variety of wine by 10 times or more," said professor Jin. "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."