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Although most people are disgusted with E. coli, they are one of the most important research objects for scientists. Recently, scientists have successfully changed the food taste of E. coli.
According to a new paper published in the journal Cell, scientists at the weizman Institute of Science in Israel have developed an E.coli that feeds on carbon dioxide. The bacteria usually prefer sugar or glucose, but lab grown strains turn carbon dioxide into their own energy when they produce substances that can be used in biofuels.
At present, several kinds of E. coli have been used to make biofuels, but they usually eat sugar, and sugar is not a rich substance. So scientists turned to new research breakthroughs.
The researchers added a carbon dioxide converting enzyme to the E.coli gene, and removed other enzymes used to metabolize sugar, eventually successfully changing the food source on which they live. To prove that they dont really need sugar to survive, the scientists put the bacteria in the lab for 200 days. When the bacteria were studied again, the researchers found that they had successfully evolved and were able to grow without sugar.
Ron Milo, who led the study, said the team didnt expect to make such a huge change to the bacterial genome. The current problem is that E.coli releases more carbon dioxide than they consume during their growth, so researchers still need to do more research in the future to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions.
Despite its terrible reputation, E. coli has been used to do many useful things. A few years ago, when researchers studied how to store encrypted data in microorganisms, they even created E. coli based computers.
The improved E. coli can be used to produce other chemicals in the future. They can even use the carbon dioxide by-products produced by the steel industry or the concrete industry to produce insulin for diabetics. Frank Sargent of Newcastle University said: this technology has unlimited possibilities, and this kind of directed evolution has won the Nobel Prize, which is a good example.
Studies have shown that E. coli can even be used to produce the gymnomycin in the magic mushroom, a substance that can prevent depression. More and more people begin to test it as a treatment for mental illness, such as addiction, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. A team at the University of Miami genetically engineered the bacteria to produce psychoactive Pleurotus ostreatus.
In addition, the team behind the study did claim that the strain could be used to develop food.. Although E. coli food may sound a little disgusting, it will take a long time for us to know what this food will look like in the future. Researchers say the work is basically a proof of concept, so the idea of using E. coli to make a holiday dinner may take a while.
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