By Alex Bellury, Senior Writer
Tuesday, April 17th, 2018
(NEW FRONTIER NEWS) – Scientists in the United States and Britain have accidentally created an enzyme capable of breaking down plastic.
This could be useful for cleaning up some of Earth’s pollution.
The origins of the bacteria can be traced back to a study done in Japan in 2016 where scientists found bacteria in a waste dump that naturally evolved to eat plastic.
Biologist Professor John McGeehan and his colleagues at the University of Portsmouth were trying to verify the study, and ended up creating a “super-powered version of the plastic-eating enzyme”.
“Serendipity often plays a significant role in fundamental scientific research and our discovery here is no exception,” McGeehan said.
The enzyme, called PETase, was found as a result of X-Ray experiments.
This caused the enzyme to mutate giving it the ability to break down polyethylene terephthalate (PET).
PET is a plastic commonly used by plastic bottle manufacturers.
“We can all play a significant part in dealing with the plastic problem, but the scientific community who ultimately created these ‘wonder-materials’, must now use all the technology at their disposal to develop real solutions,” Professor McGeehan said, in a press release.
May, Ashley. (April 2018). This enzyme eats plastic and could revolutionize recycling, scientists say. USA Today. The United States. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2018/04/17/enzyme-eats-plastic-and-could-revolutionize-recycling-scientists-say/523399002/
Reuters Staff. (April 2018). Plastic-eating enzyme holds promise in fighting pollution. Reuters. The United Kingdom. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-science-plastic-enzyme/plastic-eating-enzyme-holds-promise-in-fighting-pollution-idUSKBN1HN2OZ
The Week Staff. (April 2018). Scientists ‘accidentally’ create plastic-eating enzyme. The Week. The United Kingdom. http://www.theweek.co.uk/environment/92961/scientists-accidentally-create-plastic-eating-enzyme