A marine isopod that can digest the indigestible

In many of the articles we discussed in class, the researchers point out that the main bottleneck in making biofuels from plant biomass is due to their recalcitrant degradation of the insoluble lignocellulosic plant biomass.  In one article, the researchers showed that Anaerocellum thermophilum bacteria was able to digest the insoluble material. Here in this news article,  another creature that can digest the indigestible is discussed.  It is a marine isopod or a wood eating gribble, as it’s called, that destroys wooden piers, docks, and ships.  For centuries, these gribbles were a mystery and a hassle,  but now they might have found their use.  Researchers at the BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre at the Universities of York and Portsmouth discovered that these gribbles have no helper microbes in their digestive system like most termites, and hence, carry their own  necessary enzymes to convert wood into sugars.  By studying these enzymes and by cloning their genes into other microbes , the bottleneck may finally be shattered.


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