You must have seen quite a few cartoons and movies where a geeky looking scientist or druid puts a drop of shiny liquid into a shimmering vat and boom it goes; the liquid increases tenfold and gushes out. If only all this were true and we could make more of what is less, things would have been different today. Apparently, this just seems to have happened at the United State’s Department of Energy Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI). Researchers here have developed just such a magic bullet that can boost the ability of microbes to make biofuel.
The system developed is called Dynamic sensor regulator system or DSRS. This system detects changes in microbial metabolism during production of fuels based on fatty acids. But is this done? Well, this system goes to the heart of the matter and controls the expression of genes specific to production. Expression of genes is what controls the production of the fuel component by microbes.
It is strategically advantageous to be able to switch on or switch off the process at will during industrial fermentation. A demonstration of this technology resulted in a significant increase in the microbial production of biodiesel from glucose. This is a direct result of being able to specifically control and regulate a microbe’s metabolic pathway and is a sure promise of greater things to come that goes beyond our wildest expectations in the area of industrial biotechnology. Earlier procedures to increase production solely depended on providing nutrients or growth supplements without any guarantee that the microbes would actually utilize them in their metabolic pathway.
The researchers Fuzhong Zhang, James Carothers and Jay Keasling have published their findings in a paper titled “Design of a dynamic sensor regulator system for production of FAbased chemicals and fuels” in the journal, Nature Biotechnology.