Researchers develop Carbon-dioxide eating E. coli strain

Researchers have developed a new strain of E-coli that eats carbon-dioxide according to a new paper published in Cell online journal. The bacteria usually prefer sugars (glucose), but the lab-created strain could be used to create biofuels with a lower emissions footprint than conventional production methods, Nature explains. The researchers say the work is mostly a proof of concept at this time.
The achievement is a milestone, say scientists, because it drastically alters the inner workings of one of biology’s most popular model organisms. And in the future, CO2-eating E. coli could be used to make organic carbon molecules that could be used as biofuels or to produce food. Products made in this way would have lower emissions compared with conventional production methods, and could potentially remove the gas from the air.
“It’s like a metabolic heart transplantation,” says Tobias Erb, a biochemist and synthetic biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology in Marburg, Germany, who wasn’t involved in the study.
E. coli, for all its bad press, has already been used to do many useful things. Several years ago, researchers managed to store encrypted data in the microorganisms, and there are even E. Coli-based “computers.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen carbon-guzzling strains, either, but previous efforts have only consumed CO2 as a small part of their “diet” compared to this latest generation. If you were hoping the new bacteria could be used to suck CO2 out of the air and help save the planet, sadly that’s not viable right now. Not least because this modified bacterium currently emits more than it consumes. But the team behind the research does claim the strain could be used to develop “food,” and hopes that switching to electricity as an energy source might reduce those emissions.