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Thursday, 11 August 2016

Engineered Microbes could reduce contamination in biofermentation plants

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The increasing cost can be significantly reduced for the production of liquid biofuels and biochemicals with a new bio-engineering technique. Microbes have been used in fermentation technique for the production of ethanol and other chemicals from cellulosic or sugar containing compound. But the leading problem is the contamination of fermentation vessels with unwanted microbes. These unwanted invaders outcompete the producer microbes and reduce nutrients and also productivity.

The solution to cleanse the fermentation vessel clear the companies used steam sterilization and for that the formation vessels has to be built with stainless steel and also to use costly antibiotics. But a recently published research from MIT and Cambridge in the journal Science have provided with a new technique that can allow producer microbes an upper hand against cost providing invaders.

The researchers engineered microbes with the ability to extract nitrogen and phosphorous which are two vital nutrients for growth from unconventional sources.

“We created microbes that can utilize some xenobiotic compounds that contain nitrogen, such as melamine,” as said by Gregory Stephanopoulos the Willard Henry Dow Professor of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology at MIT. Melamine is a xenobiotic compound, or an artificial chemical that contains 67 percent nitrogen by weight.

In biofermentation process nitrogen is provided to producer microbes but the contaminating microbe such as Lactobacilli can extract nitrogen from ammonium and compete producer microbes. But in the genetically modified organism they do not have pathways that can use melamine as nitrogen source and hence their growth stops.

The genetic engineering was coupled in the well known adapter microbe called E. coli with six-step pathway that allows converting melamine to ammonia and carbon dioxide. It used cyanamide as its sole nitrogen source.

Source: MIT News


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