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Thread: Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles

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    Ulysses Everett McGill OrbitalDawn's Avatar
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    Default Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles

    The breakthrough, spurred by the discovery of plastic-eating bugs at a Japanese dump, could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis

    Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles.

    The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug.

    The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. “What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock,” said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. “It’s great and a real finding.”

    The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic – far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.

    “What we are hoping to do is use this enzyme to turn this plastic back into its original components, so we can literally recycle it back to plastic,” said McGeehan. “It means we won’t need to dig up any more oil and, fundamentally, it should reduce the amount of plastic in the environment.”
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    Nice. It's better than tweaking the microbes in my opinion. I still have some reservations on GMO bacteria since bacteria have often been powerful drivers of geologic and significant climate changes in the earth's history.

    But yeah. The concern is rather... vague.

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    Sounds like the beginning of the end of the world to me.

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    What happens when the enzyme evolves further and starts eating mcdonalds?

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    Quote Originally Posted by diesel View Post
    What happens when the enzyme evolves further and starts eating mcdonalds?
    So it evolved into Americans?

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    Ok, so how exactly are they planning on containing the [Edit: bacteria that produce the] enzyme?

    This is a good step, and if it is limited to breaking down plastic bottles, the risk is minimal.

    But..

    If this "mutant" [Edit: bacteria that produces the] enzyme mutates to [Edit: produce an enzyme that ] consume ALL types of plastic, we might have a problem.

    Edit: Better now?
    Last edited by Zophos; 18-04-2018 at 10:38 AM. Reason: Bug fixes

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    I see a full scale toy soldier war coming! I'm sure they are going to use their nuke!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zophos View Post
    Ok, so how exactly are they planning on containing the enzyme?

    This is a good step, and if it is limited to breaking down plastic bottles, the risk is minimal.

    But..

    If this "mutant" enzyme mutates to consume ALL types of plastic, we might have a problem.
    I think the idea is to release it into the oceans, rivers or where ever there is a stupid amount of plastic that needs to be removed.
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    Super Grandmaster eg2505's Avatar
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    this is a good thing, I just hope it does not mutate into eating through metal
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    The most used resource in the world is plastic. Can you imagine what would happen if that escapes and multiplies?
    Last edited by Pitbull; 17-04-2018 at 08:20 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by konfab View Post
    So it devolved into Americans?
    FTFY
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pitbull View Post
    The most used resource in the world is plastic. can you imagine what would happen if that escapes and multiplies?
    Remember reading a book with that same premise. For the life of me can't find the title now.

    I think this is a great breakthrough! Just need to guard against he unintended consequences.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eg2505 View Post
    this is a good thing, I just hope it does not mutate into eating through metal
    Too much hollywood
    Yeah whatever mate

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    Quote Originally Posted by eg2505 View Post
    this is a good thing, I just hope it does not mutate into eating through metal
    ...good plot for a movie...eureka! we discover an enzyme that eats plastic...down the line, enzyme mutates, spreads and starts breaking down concrete...world faces collapse...
    BSG -the best show!

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    Quote Originally Posted by eg2505 View Post
    this is a good thing, I just hope it does not mutate into eating through metal
    Don't need anything special for that, it's called rust and all you need is oxygen.
    I've been around for a long, long year

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