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Researchers Group Mimic Organisms’ Tricks to Sustainably Create Chemicals

Researchers have mimicked the way organisms produce toxic chemicals without harming themselves, paving the way for greener chemical and fuel production.

The new technique, founded by Imperial College London scientists, might reduce the need to use fossil fuels to create chemical compounds, plastics, fibers, and ammunition.

At the moment, many useful chemical compounds are produced from fossil fuels, which require mining, are of limited supply, and disturb the carbon cycle. An alternative is to engineer microorganisms like Escherichia coli and cyanobacteria to more sustainably produce the chemical substances directly from atmospheric CO2

Nonetheless, lots of the chemical compounds that can be created this way are poisonous to the microorganisms, lowering their ability to make large portions in a cost-effective means.

Now, by copying the way natural organisms deal with their own toxic chemicals, researchers have proven that microorganisms can be programmed to produce chemical substances without further harming development.

This idea could be used to supply helpful chemical substances, plastics, and even fuels, which could further alleviate the need for fossil fuels and assist in minimizing climate change. The new approach and the first proof of concept are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Organisms like vegetation and yeasts sometimes generate chemical substances that are poisonous to them, so to store them safely, they make brief changes to the chemical elements to render them harmless. The ensuing chemical substances are referred to as ‘derivatives’, and can be returned to the original, poisonous form via comparatively simple chemistry.

The crew took this idea and used genetic engineering to program E. coli and cyanobacteria to make 1-octanol, a chemical at the moment utilized in perfumes, which is poisonous to the microorganism.

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