Pollution solution? Protein eats plastic

Theresa May calls on Commonwealth leaders to help clear oceans of plastic waste

The enzyme can digest polyethylene terephthalate (PET), a kind of strong plastic used in plastic bottles around the world.

Currently, recycled plastic is limited in its use as typically it is just re-used for other products such as clothing, but this breakthrough could allow for clear plastic bottles to be broken down and made once again into bottles.

Ever hopeful: Prof John McGeehan at work in his laboratory. During this study, they inadvertently engineered an enzyme that is better still at degrading the plastic than the one that evolved in nature.

The researchers also believe that with further tinkering, the enzyme could be improved again to speed up the process further allowing for its use on an industrial scale.

"This week we will look closely at how we can tackle the many threats to the health of the world's oceans, including the scourge of marine plastic pollution, the Prime Minister said ahead of the summit". But when the team manipulated the enzyme to explore this connection, they accidentally improved its ability to eat PET.

As the researchers were using the 3D information of this stucture to understand how it works, they inadvertently engineered an enzyme that is better still at degrading the plastic than the one that evolved in nature.

AN ENZYME that gobbles up plastic could be the answer to the world's recycling headache, say British scientists. The team used the Diamond Light Source, near Oxford, UK, an intense beam of X-rays that is 10bn times brighter than the sun and can reveal individual atoms. Using beamline I23, an ultra-high-resolution 3D model of the PETase enzyme was generated. Enzymes are a form of protein that act as catalysts in biochemical reactions.

Stoke boss Lambert frustrated after West Ham 'blow'
We re willing to fight and we have got the supporters behind us. "A win on Sunday really sets the cats among the pigeons". England boss Gareth Southgate was in attendance to witness two Three Lions strikers of old take centre stage.

Up to five developing countries will be supported to help them meet the ambitious political commitments they have made by signing up to the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance. "It is fantastic that United Kingdom scientists and facilities are helping to lead the way".

Then, with help of computational modelling and scientists at the University of South Florida and the University of Campinas in Brazil, the team discovered PETase may have evolved in a PET-heavy environment to enable the enzyme to degrade PET.

One possible improvement being explored is to transplant the mutant enzyme into an "extremophile bacteria" that can survive temperatures above the 70C melting point of PET - the plastic is likely to degrade 10-100 times faster when molten.

The research was funded by the University of Portsmouth, NREL and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).

Researchers in the U.S. and Britain have accidentally engineered an enzyme which eats plastic and may eventually help solve the growing problem of plastic pollution, a study said Monday. PET sinks in seawater but some scientists have conjectured that plastic-eating bugs might one day be sprayed on the huge plastic garbage patches in the oceans to clean them up.

The paper's lead author is postgraduate student jointly funded by the University of Portsmouth and NREL, Harry Austin. Note: material may have been edited for length and content.

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