Friday, July 02, 2010

Is There Anything Genetically Modified Micro-Organisms Can't Do?

San Francisco startup company Siluria is concocting thousands of genetically modified microbes daily, then studying their prolific outputs. The aim is to generate catalysts that can convert simple molecules such as methane into chemical feedstocks for industry -- leading to the creation of an entire new $trillion dollar biological chemical sector of industry. More from New York Times

One of Siluria's wildest ideas so far is to teach a virus to coat itself with "a tangle of metal coated nanowire" to act as a catalyst, for the conversion of methane to ethylene -- a useful feedstock in the chemical industry.

Bringing viruses into the picture previously dominated by bacteria, algae, and fungi, may have been a master stroke. The simplicity of the viral genome makes viruses a promising foundation for innovative approaches to bio-nanoengineering.

Microbes tend not to sleep if they can help it, and will continue working and multiplying as long as conditions are right. It is up to humans to find the limits of microbial ingenuity. And then to go beyond them.



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