Helping bacteria float

Published: Friday 31 December 1993

OIL-EATING bacteria, useful in cleaning up slicks, will soon have water wings, helping to keep them afloat in water. Using gene-splicing techniques, researchers at the University of Massachusetts, USA, have isolated 13 genes responsible for producing air-filled sacs in a floating bacterium called Halobacterium halobium.

This comes in the wake of work done by molecular biologist Shiladitya Dassarma in transferring the water- wing genes to a non-floating variety of halobacterium. Dassarma has transplanted the "pneumatic" genes into oil-eating bacteria, thus letting them keep munching instead of sinking. Next in the line is re-engineered yeast for beer-making, which can be skimmed off, removing the need for filtering the beer.

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