“CO2-guzzling bacteria made in the lab could help tackle climate change”

Bacteria have been rewired to live off carbon dioxide and they could be used to produce biofuels in a more sustainable way. Specific strains of Escherichia coli bacteria (E.Coli) are often used to make biofuels and other chemicals, but they normally feed on sugar. Ron Milo at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and his colleagues have managed to make E. coli consume CO2 instead.

The researchers added genes to the E. coli genome for an enzyme that converts atmospheric CO2 to biomass and deleted genes needed for sugar metabolism. They then left the bacteria for several months in the lab. After 200 days, they found that the microbes had successfully evolved to grow without needing sugar for food.

Source: New Scientist

What if the original E.Coli population was limited by presence of sugar and the new strain no longer has constraints on population growth?

But they didn’t delete any other genes (characteristics) of E.Coli…

Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should-Jurassic Park

What is E. coli?

E. coli (Escherichia coli) are a group of bacteria that are found in the gut of nearly all people and animals. There are many different strains of E. coli. Some cause no illness at all. Others cause minor illness, and yet others cause serious illness.

Minor illnesses caused by E. coli: Some strains of E. coli cause a range of minor illnesses including: traveller’s diarrhoea and food poisoning, both of which can cause diarrhoea, stomach pain, nausea and vomiting.

Serious illnesses caused by E. coli:
Some strains of E. coli cause serious illnesses such as:

  • pneumonia
  • meningitis in newborn babies
  • inflammation of the gallbladder (cholecystitis)

Source: healthdirect

Why are scientists trying to emulate a function performed by the entire plant kingdom?

What Is Photosynthesis?

Photosynthetic cells are found in green plants, phytoplankton, and cyanobacteria. During the process of photosynthesis, cells use carbon dioxide and energy from the Sun to make sugar molecules and oxygen. These sugar molecules are the basis for more complex molecules made by the photosynthetic cell, such as glucose.

The building and breaking of carbon-based material — from carbon dioxide to complex organic molecules (photosynthesis) then back to carbon dioxide (respiration) — is part of what is commonly called the global carbon cycle.

Photosynthesis doesn’t just drive the carbon cycle — it also creates the oxygen necessary for respiring organisms.

Source: Nature.com