Mutant Plastic Enzyme

Discussion in 'General Science' started by BR-549, Apr 16, 2018.

  1. BR-549

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  2. wayneh

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    More sensationalist journalism. The mutation gave a 20% boost in...something they didn’t bother to define (could be rate, lifetime, or an artifact within experimental error). It’s interesting, but the headline makes it sound like a lot more.
     
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  3. profbuxton

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    Feb 21, 2014
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    Wow, imagine if this was factual. would all plastic be under threat if this "bug" got loose. Can you imagine how it would affect our world if plastics were "eaten" by a "bug".
     
  4. wayneh

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    I wouldn't worry too much. Enzyme reactions (and thus life) require surface area and water, and usually other things such as cofactors. For many or most plastic applications, the plastic has a low surface-area-to-volume ratio (ie. is not shredded) and is not in contact with water.
     
  5. jpanhalt

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  6. BR-549

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    Wouldn't that be something. Instead of a human pandemic....a fossil fuel, plastic pandemic.

    Make a good novel. How devastating would it be?

    Without our disposable plastics.......I don't believe our heath care could function. Not to mention trade.
     
  7. profbuxton

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    There were two novels in this vain written many years ago. Don't recall the author as I didn't read them. Titles were "The death of steel" and "The death of grass". I believe the premise was some sort of "bug" causing steel and grass to die.
    Must see if i can dig them up somewhere.
     
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  8. wayneh

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    I can't get past the suspension of disbelief. Solid substrates are very resistant to enzyme attack, and even microbes have a hard time getting into them. If there's a big enough thermodynamic drop to be had, something will come along with the right biochemistry to exploit it. But it might take thousands of generations for a microbe to evolve into that niche. They need something to live on in the meanwhile.
     
  9. jpanhalt

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    I would not be so pessimistic about what those little bugs can do. They can form adherent biofilms to everything, including Teflon. And, they do not need to get into the plastic for their extracellular enzymes to attack it. That is not to say development in that area is at the same stage as fermentation to make alcohol or antibiotics is, but I don't see that the plastic surface per se will be a no go.

    Biofilms:
    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0043135494003333
    Extracellular enzymes:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC195314/pdf/aem00043-0307.pdf
     
  10. wayneh

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    There’s a big difference between shredded plastic in a “compost pile” environment and plastic bottles on the shelf in the grocery store. The pile will eventually make progress in digesting the plastic. There’s nearly zero risk to clean, dry, undamaged plastic.
     
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