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Superbug Survives Radiation, Eats Toxic Waste (Kinda Cool)

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The Straight Story Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 05:28 PM
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Superbug Survives Radiation, Eats Toxic Waste (Kinda Cool)
Superbug Survives Radiation, Eats Toxic Waste

A can of spoiled meat and nuclear waste may appear to have little in common, but the bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans thrives in both environments. This bacterium was discovered in 1956 when it was identified as the culprit in a can of spoiled ground beef thought to be radiation sterilized. Scientists subsequently learned that its extreme radiation resistance enables the microbe to survive doses thousands of times higher than would kill most organisms, including humans. The remarkable DNA-repair processes of D. radiodurans allow it to stitch together flawlessly its own radiation-shattered genome in about 24 hours.

DOE chose this organism for DNA sequencing because of its potential usefulness in cleaning up waste sites containing radiation and toxic chemicals. Its DNA sequence was completely determined in 1999, and scientists now are exploring ways to add genes from other organisms to expand D. radiodurans capabilities for removing toxic wastes from contaminated sites. The added genes encode proteins that transform heavy metals to a more benign biomass and allow the concentration of heavy metals and the breakdown of organic solvents such as toluene. Studies into this organisms remarkable DNA-repair pathways also may help scientists better understand how defects in human cellular processes might lead to the development of cancers.

Pretty neat stuff. I am sure wal-mart will be carrying it soon :)

Now that the intricacies of D. radiodurans have been covered, one may explore the possibilities for utilizing the microbe's special skills. At the top of the list for uses of D. radiodurans is bioremediation. Bioremediation is the strategy of using bacteria to feed on or simply degrade dangerous compounds. Although simple in theory, scientists have discovered microbes with an ability to metabolize one toxic substance, only to find that other compounds in a waste mix inhibit the bacterium's growth. D. radiodurans may offer a solution by providing the framework to create a versatile and efficient "superbug." The design of the superbug revolves around equipping D. radiodurans with genes imported from other bacterium already known to degrade dangerous compounds. Though organic pollutants such as trichloroethylene and toluene may be metabolized by specific microbes already known, no known bacterium can actually metabolize uranium, plutonium, and other heavy metals into harmless substances. However, some microbes do possess genes encoding proteins that immobilize metals with which they come in contact. By implementing these genes into the superbug, at least the spread of radioactive elements and other metals could be stifled until other cleanup strategies are available. So, although D. radiodurans may not provide a direct solution for waste treatment, it does provide scientists with a potential alternative.


Using genetic engineering Deinococcus has been used for bioremediation to consume and digest solvents and heavy metals, even in a highly radioactive site. The bacterial mercuric reductase gene has been cloned from Escherichia coli into Deinococcus to detoxify the ionic mercury frequently found in radioactive waste generated from nuclear weapons manufacture<6>. Those researchers developed a strain of Deinococcus that could detoxify both mercury and toluene in mixed radioactive wastes.

Some have speculated that mechanisms of DNA repair used by D. radiodurans could be incorporated into the genome of higher species as a means of rejuvenation.

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Rick Myers Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 05:37 PM
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1. Really good idea
Something that the Reich would find EVIL, but a brilliant idea...
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ThomWV Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 05:46 PM
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2. I Used To Work On That Stuff With DOE - We Couldn't Fund It
Edited on Sun Oct-08-06 05:48 PM by ThomWV
Particularly for treating the tanks at Hanford, but other places too, it was becoming more and more clear that you needed bugs. There were already bugs living in the hottest tanks Washington and Idaho had to offer. The problem was to make more of them. When it came to cleaning up ground water absolutely nothing else but bugs made any sense at all. You can only vent so much ground even at Savannah River, but there is so much carbontet in the ground there that if bugs don't eat it then it ain't goin' nowhere.

Problem is the public perception of growing radio-active-shit-eating bugs. People get pictures in their minds along the lines of old Japanese movies and there goes any chance at all of giving out a few million dollars worth of grants to promising projects at various Universities. That was about how it worked. We got lots of good bug-development proposals, but funded very damned few of them.
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The Straight Story Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 05:50 PM
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3. They need to rename it then :) Maybe....
Cool stuff that destroys bad stuff (to help the less science minded), or Jesus reveals way, through an image on toast, to help save the environment and lives.

Funding to the extreme.
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LiberalEsto Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 05:56 PM
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4. Will it eat Republicans?
Or does the critter draw the line at that?
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The Straight Story Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 06:19 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. It's a superbug, not a god-like bug that can destroy evil ;) (nt)
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fed-up Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-08-06 06:51 PM
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6. Call me a ludiite, but this sh*t scares the Sh*t out of me n/t
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