Microbes: Let’s work with what we got, and not hope for some single savior

A recent review published in Nature has acknowledged that microbes may prove useful in solving our energy problems, but they aren’t too convinced that this is an area we should pin all our hopes to.  It has been articulated in a Nature article that the ideal organism for biofuel production will possess high substrate use and processing capacities, fast and deregulated pathways of sugar transport, good tolerances to inhibitors and product, and high metabolic fluxes and will produce a single fermentation product. It is unclear whether such an organism will be engineered using a native isolated strain or a recombinant model organism as the starting point, and this is precisely what was addressed, and debated,  in this article.  They do suggest, however, that advances in synthetic biology provide a valuable technology, enabling better diversification of the biofuel-type molecules that are produced in standard model organisms.  The debate still remains though with some people still hoping that a single organism will come along and solve all of our energy needs.  Researchers from the University of Minnesota  sternly object this statement with their finding that  CO2 can readily be converted to biofuels.    They doubt that a single organism can be engineered that out-competes a collection of specialized organisms; much evidence clearly shows that the reaction rates of mixtures are better than those of single organisms.  It really makes sense when you think about it the percentages that we can modify existing biosynthesizing pathways is far more feasible than finding a new pathway altogether.   So to those people hoping a single cure is going to come about, don’t hold your breath; let’s let the genetic engineers off their leashes and transform cyanobacteria into the worlds greatest energy supply.


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