An environmentally friendly solution to one of the worlds most notorious chemical contamination problems may be a step closer to reality, reports a research team from Purdue University and the University of British Columbia.
A micrograph image of Rhodococcus sp. RHA1, which are good PCB-degraders. Researchers Jeffrey Bolin and Lindsay Eltis hope bacteria, such as these, can be bred to digest PCBs effectively enough to cleanse the environment of these hazardous chemicals. (Photo/UBC Bioimaging Facility)
The team has identified one of the key stumbling blocks that prevent microorganisms from decomposing PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), a persistent and potentially hazardous industrial chemical that has become nearly ubiquitous in the environment. While capitalizing on the discovery will take time, it could eventually show researchers how to teach microorganisms to break down PCBs into ecologically safe molecules, a process known as bioremediation.
"We have isolated one of the major hurdles to cleaning up PCBs naturally," said Jeffrey T. Bolin, professor of biological sciences and a member of Purdues Markey Center for Structural Biology and Cancer Center. "This gives us a clear picture of one route to degrading PCBs in the environment."
Chad Boutin | Purdue News
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