DAVAO CITY—American researchers have developed a marine bacteria that may help solve plastics pollution of the world’s oceans when laboratory results showed their ability to break down plastics.
Researchers from the United States North Carolina State University “have successfully engineered a marine microorganism that can break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET),” or plastics commonly used as packaging of many consumer goods, Biotech Updates, the online weekly publication of International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), cited in its September 20 issue.
The ISAAA said the researchers worked with two species of a bacterium, Vibrio natriegens and Ideonella sakaiensis, in conducting the experiment.
“A sequence of DNA from I. sakaiensis that is responsible for the production of enzymes that can break down PET was taken and incorporated into a plasmid, genetic sequences that can replicate in a cell,” it said.
“The plasmid containing the I. sakaiensis genes is then introduced into the V. natriegens bacterium that thrives and reproduces quickly in saltwater. Results of the study show that the genetically engineered V. natriegens was able to break down PET in a saltwater setting,” ISAAA added.
The researchers have published their work at the AIChE Journal, official publication of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers on September 14.
The ISAAA said that Nathan Crook, the corresponding author, “Says that this is the first time that V. natriegens was able to express foreign enzymes on its cell surface.”
“Similarly, Tianyu Li, the first author of the paper, says that this is also the first genetically engineered organism to break down PET microplastics in saltwater,” it added.
It said that “with the promising findings of the study, genetic engineering has the potential to mitigate the issue of plastic accumulation in saltwater environments.”
It said that PET “is a highly recyclable plastic that is a major contributor to plastic pollution in the ocean.”
In Asia, the Philippines has been identified as one of the major sources of plastics dumped into the seas and oceans.
Image credits: Biotech Updates image