Can Carbon-Eating Bacteria Help Tackle Climate Change?

Out of all the new solutions that scientists are coming up with to help tackle climate change and put a stop to it, you’d think bacteria are the least likely to be used. Nevertheless, Not only that, but the same bacteria can now also be harnessed to help create food and fuel that is sustainable for everyone, tackling two climate change woes with one stone, or rather, bacteria.

Climate Change-Fighting Bacteria

The researchers, who are all from Israel, recently spent the last few months genetically altering a type of E. coli to make it consume CO2 for energy, instead of the usual organic compounds. This process, per the researchers, involves removing the genes that usually process the sugar compounds they ate and replacing them with genes that can metabolize carbon.

“From a basic scientific perspective, we wanted to see if such a major transformation in the diet of bacteria – from dependence on sugar to the synthesis of all their biomass from CO2 – is possible,” Shmuel Gleizer, first author and a Weizmann Institute of Science postdoctoral fellow, said. “Beyond testing the feasibility of such a transformation in the lab, we wanted to know how extreme an adaptation is needed in terms of the changes to the bacterial DNA blueprint.”

According to the team, the results are a significant step in the field of synthetic biology since it highlights bacterial metabolism and its incredible plasticity. Furthermore, the team’s findings can also provide a good framework for future research in carbon-neutral reproduction.

Per senior author Ron Milo, a systems biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, the team’s main aim is to create a scientific platform that could enhance CO2 fixation, a solution that can help address the challenges presented by climate change and sustainable food and fuel.

“Converting the carbon source of  E. Coli,  the workhorse of biotechnology, from organic carbon into CO2 is a major step towards establishing such a platform,” Milo added.

“It can also serve as a platform to better understand and improve the molecular machines that are the basis of food production for humanity and thus help in the future to increase yields in agriculture.”

E. coli A new study points the finger at bacterial infections, not antibiotics, as a potential trigger of childhood obesity. Above, E. coli bacteria. Pixabay, Public Domain