Saturday, January 17, 2009

Genetic modification of E. coli, a bacterium to produce long-chain alcohols essential in the creation of biofuels- a new avenue of biofules ?

Alcohols were never synthesized beyond five carbons. Now, James Liao, UCLA professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and his team have figured out a way to engineer proteins for a whole new pathway in E. coli to produce longer-chain alcohols with up to eight carbon atoms. This research is of interesting because of the fact that, longer-chain alcohols with five or more carbon atoms, pack more energy into a smaller space and are easier to separate from water. Thus making them less volatile and corrosive than the commercially available biofuel ethanol. The greater the number of carbon atoms, the higher the density of the biofuel.

Encouraged by the fact that organisms typically produce a large number of amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. In their research, Liao's team examined the metabolism of amino acids in E. coli and changed the metabolic pathway of the bacterium by inserting two specially coded genes. One gene, from a cheese-making bacterium, and another, from a type of yeast often used in baking and brewing, were altered to enable E. coli's amino acid precursor, keto acid, to continue the chain-elongation process that ultimately resulted in longer-chain alcohols.

Though this new frontier of biofuels production from organisms has the potential to address significant issues in global warming, the scientific significance of successful genetic modification could also mean great benefits beyond the environment. Hope this reaerch will go a longway in finding solution to the alternative ways for biofuels and also may have its impact in the fields of Polymer science and Drug manufacturing . More....

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