Tuesday, 14 February 2012

The project

The project
- Background

After countless ideas, decision, research and discussions about the pros and con's of various ideas, we whittled the list down to a few Key ideas, involving detection of prions (a form of infectious misfolded protein), production of bio fuel such as hydrogen gas from waste products, and polystyrene degradation. After talking to our supervisor, Dr Badge, who also brought a few of his own ideas to the table, we decided to go with designing a bacteria to degrade polystyrene. However until that point, we were unaware of any known bacteria that used polystyrene as its sole carbon source. This set us on the laborious task of trying to find mechanisms of degrading the individual parts of the molecule. Breaking it down in to pieces that the normal bacterial mechanics could use, for instance the fatty acid degradation pathway. As well as methods to take in the molecule and deal with the benzene ring. This process resulted in a bundle of pieces of paper and lots of worn out pens next to text books, but leaving us with a hypothetical pathway with lots of "well hopefully that could do that, it looks like it should" statements thrown in. Nevertheless, Wikipedia isn't always correct. After a somewhat lucky Google Search we found a article from the African Journal of Microbiology Research, whereby it listed 4 very slow growth strains of Bacteria which had been isolated and sequenced, giving us a much better start and project idea.
This lucky search along with a few other papers we then looked at, changed around the project and made it into a much more feasible idea. However your probably thinking now, "well there is a bacteria that can do it, why do you need to do anything with it?" This bacteria has out competed its competitors as it can utilize the carbon source being polystyrene while the others have not. Making it a evolutionary winner as such even with such a slow growth rate. Consequently as it is so slow, it would never be a feasible method for removing or utilizing polystyrene for any industrial purposes as it would take far far too long. Which is why we came up with our revised project.
More to follow Shortly.

Christopher Morton - Project Leader

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