Scientists accidentally engineer mutant bacteria that gorges on plastic bottles
It's not a solution yet, but perhaps the start of one.
A few years ago, at an Osaka, Japan recycling plant, scientists discovered a bacteria called Ideonella sakaiensis that eats one of the most common forms of plastic, known as polyethylene terephthalate or PET. That form of plastic is found in water bottles, food containers, and polyester. You know the items with the “1” symbol in your recycling bin? Those tend to be made of PET.
Researchers from Britain’s University of Portsmouth and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) were trying to model the enzyme and ended up with a mutant strain of the same thing, with a crucial difference: it eats plastic even better.
"We hoped to determine its structure to aid in protein engineering, but we ended up going a step further and accidentally engineered an enzyme with improved performance at breaking down these plastics," said NREL's lead researcher Gregg Beckham.
University of Portsmouth professor John McGeehan, who conducted the research with Beckham, went even further in a statement.
“Serendipity often plays a significant role in fundamental scientific research and our discovery here is no exception. Although the improvement is modest, this unanticipated discovery suggests that there is room to further improve these enzymes, moving us closer to a recycling solution for the ever-growing mountain of discarded plastics.”
There’s speculation that, with further mutations, the PETase mutant enzyme might even be used to degrade/eat the newer kinds of plastic known as Polyethylene furandicarboxylate or PEF.
It’s at least a promising beginning in this field of study.
And here's author Laurence Gonzales on our culture of garbage.
Researchers discover a link between nonverbal synchronization and relationship success.
- Scientists say coordinating movements leads to increased intimacy and sexual desire in a couple.
- The improved rapport and empathy was also observed in people who didn't know each other.
- Non-verbal clues are very important in the development stages of a relationship.
Humans evolved to live in the cold through a number of environmental and genetic factors.
- According to some relatively new research, many of our early human cousins preceded Homo sapien migrations north by hundreds of thousands or even millions of years.
- Cross-breeding with other ancient hominids gave some subsets of human population the genes to contend and thrive in colder and harsher climates.
- Behavioral and dietary changes also helped humans adapt to cold climates.
The comics titan worked for more than half a century to revolutionize and add nuance to the comics industry, and he built a vast community of fans along the way.
- Lee died shortly after being rushed to an L.A. hospital. He had been struggling with multiple illnesses over the past year, reports indicate.
- Since the 1950s, Lee has been one of the most influential figures in comics, helping to popularize heroes that expressed a level of nuance and self-doubt previously unseen in the industry.
- Lee, who's later years were marked by some financial and legal tumult, is survived by his daughter, Joan Celia "J.C." Lee.
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