Mining ‘extremely hostile environments’ for keys to new drugs, tech breakthroughs

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
download
When Andrea and Don Stierle isolate microbes from their Berkeley Pit water samples, they grow each organism in a large flask like these to extract the compounds the microbes are making. Image: University of Montana

Many scientists have been investigating the planet’s countless extreme environments, on the hunt for molecules that will inspire the next blockbuster drug or technological breakthrough. With some scientists estimating that less than 5% of fungal species and 1% of prokaryotic species on Earth are known, a lot of biodiversity remains to be explored.

From abandoned copper mines in Montana and Vermont to a coal seam in Kentucky that’s been burning for half a century, natural product chemists have begun to identify potential new pharmaceuticals in the most unlikely of places.

“Extremely hostile environments are an evolutionary playground,” says Tomasz Boruta, a bioprocess engineer at Lodz University of Technology, in Poland. “Organisms need to evolve all sorts of new compounds to adapt to those harsh conditions.”

Related article:  Extraterrestrial protein found inside meteorite? If true, discovery bolsters pursuit of alien life

[T]he chances that these tiny survivor organisms will yield useful molecules is high: the compounds they synthesize have to be potent and unique to help keep them alive. Though the work has yet to arrive at a doctor’s prescription pad, experts say that it’s probably only a matter of time until some of humanity’s biggest disasters begin to yield some lifesaving compounds.

Read full, original post: Scientists mine for potential drugs in the Berkeley Pit and other industrial sites

Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
GLP Podcasts
Infographic: Trending green and going great — Every state in the US seeing decreased cases of COVID

Infographic: Trending green and going great — Every state in the US seeing decreased cases of COVID

The U.S. averaged fewer than 40,000 new cases per day over the past week. That’s a 21% improvement over the ...
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
glp menu logo outlined

Newsletter Subscription

* indicates required
Email Lists