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Scientists Compartmenting Bacteria to Create Biodiesel and Vaccines


I have always thought that bacteria and genetics are not play with, but it looks like some researchers at the University of Kent and University College Cork have hacked into some simple bacteria’s (like e-coli) inner structure and created compartments where they could synthesize biofuels and vaccines.

Occupying around 70 percent of the available space in the bacterium cell, these micro-compartments could be modified for producing ethanol or even hydrogen, with each micro-environment to have a certain metabolic function.

Martin Warren, Professor of Biochemistry at the School of Biosciences, University of Kent, explains: “Synthetic biology is really exciting because we can produce some important and useful products that can be difficult and expensive to make using traditional chemistry techniques. Bacteria can make these things very easily and in large quantities if we develop bacteria with the right characteristics to do so efficiently.

What we often do is to make sure that the desired product is made within one or more tiny compartments that already exist inside the bacteria. This means that the process doesn’t get caught up or slowed down by everything else that is going on in the cell and so is much more efficient.”

The researchers also say that the chemicals developed inside the bacteria’s compartments wouldn’t normally exist there, or they would be incompatible with their life.

Now, my personal opinion – we shouldn’t be messing up with bacteria so hard to make biodiesel – it would only stagnate our level of CO2, because biodiesel can’t really make a difference, like electricity does. Taking this route is only going to offer results in the short run, but we’ll get on batteries or hydrogen eventually. And when that happens, all of the bacteria developed may have already transformed into God knows what else… weapons or some malaria. Really, it’s not to mess with these things… even if for some diesel tanks.

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