ETH researches bacteria for climate-neutral chemicals

Zurich – Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) have cultivated bacteria that can utilize methanol. The metabolism is to be used to obtain basic materials for the chemical industry, which are currently still obtained from fossil raw materials.

Researchers at the Institute of Microbiology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) have cultivated special bacteria that metabolize methanol. According to a press release, the researchers are hoping that the products of this metabolism can be used to obtain raw materials for the chemical industry that could previously only be obtained from fossil sources.

Julia Vorholt's research group took advantage of the fact that so-called methylotrophic bacteria also exist in nature. However, these are not economically viable, as they cannot survive outside their natural habitat. Instead, the group experimented with Escherichia coli bacteria, which are well known from practical research. After computer modeling, two E. coli genes were removed to achieve the metylotrophic effect, while three others were added. This enabled a replication cycle of four hours. In the course of the tests, it was possible to develop mutations that metabolized a higher rate of methanol.

The aim is to incorporate bacteria into biosynthesis modules in which it is possible to convert the methanol into any biochemical substance. The basic research at ETH is intended to find alternatives to fossil fuels that do not release additional CO2 into the atmosphere, according to the press release. ce/eb

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