Scientists Create Genetically Modified E. coli Bacterium for Power Generation in Factory Wastewater

Scientists Develop Power-Generating Bacterium from E. coli Genes

Innovative E. Coli Modification Opens New Possibilities for Power Generation

In a groundbreaking scientific breakthrough, researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne have successfully engineered a power-generating bacterium by altering the genes of the common E. coli. This highly significant achievement could revolutionize wastewater treatment and power generation.

Previously, Shewanella oneidensis, a bacterium known for its ability to reduce and metabolize metals while producing electrical energy, showed promise for such applications. However, due to its reliance on specific chemicals for reproduction, its practical applications were limited.

Published in the esteemed academic journal Joule on September 8, 2023, this study highlights how the Swiss research team emulated the developmental abilities of Shewanella oneidensis within E. coli by genetic manipulation.

The first step in their process involved modifying the E. coli genome and introducing extracellular electron transfer (EET), a metabolic process that facilitates electron transfer from inside the bacterial cell to the external environment. This led to the creation of an innovative “electromicroorganism” capable of unprecedented power generation efficiency. Remarkably, this power-generating E. coli demonstrated more than double the energy output compared to previous bio-engineered strains, magnitudes beyond what Shewanella oneidensis achieved.

The research team attributed their success to the establishment of a comprehensive EET pathway within E. coli. By integrating components from the MR-1 strain, they were able to construct an optimized internal and external pathway, culminating in this remarkable power-generating bacterium.

To assess the practicality of this breakthrough, the research team conducted an experiment involving wastewater collected from a local beer brewery in Lausanne, Switzerland. Brewery wastewater, replete with sugar, starch, and brewer’s yeast, requires careful treatment before disposal to prevent undesired microbial growth. Astonishingly, the newly developed E. coli demonstrated robust multiplication within this wastewater, surpassing the limited reproductive abilities of Shewanella oneidensis.

Notably, this innovative system presents a dual benefit, simultaneously processing organic waste and generating power without the need for additional energy consumption. Standard electricity-generating microorganisms struggled to survive in the beer brewery wastewater, unlike their bioengineered counterparts, which not only survived but multiplied exponentially using the waste as their nutrient source.

The potential applications of this groundbreaking research extend far beyond wastewater treatment. Genetically modified E. coli bacteria offer vast possibilities for microbial fuel cells and biosensing due to their ability to develop from various resources. The implications of this discovery are immense.

As scientists continue to uncover new avenues to harness the power of microorganisms, this research stands out as a testament to human ingenuity and the potential for sustainable solutions.

It has been reported that by altering the genes of E. coli to give it power-generating capabilities, a power-generating bacterium that can grow in factory wastewater containing large amounts of environmentally harmful organic substances has been created.

The bacterium Shewanella oneidensis, discovered in New York’s Oneida Lake in 1988, attracted attention for its ability to reduce and metabolize metals and produce electrical energy, but it requires specific chemicals to multiply, making it difficult to find applications. The difficulty is that the width is limited.

In a paper published in the academic journal Joule on September 8, 2023, a research team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne announced that they had succeeded in acquiring the same developmental abilities as Schwanella oneidensis by manipulating the genes of common E. coli.

The research team first altered the E. coli genome and added extracellular electron transfer EET, a metabolic process that transfers electrons from inside the bacterial cell to outside the cell, to create an electromicroorganism with high power generation efficiency. The power-generating E. coli born in this way is said to produce more than twice the power generation of existing bio-engineered E. coli, which had only a fraction of the power-generating capacity of Schwanella oneidensis.

Regarding this, the research team explained that one of the important breakthroughs in this study was the construction of a complete EET pathway in E. coli, and that they had succeeded in creating an optimized pathway inside and out out into the cell by integrating MR-1 components.

Of course, even if bacteria with the ability to develop are born, it is meaningless if they are fragile or need special food or need a lot of energy to reproduced. Therefore, the research team conducted an experiment by collecting wastewater from a local beer brewery in Lausanne, Switzerland and introducing newly developed E. coli to it. Beer breweries use water to wash grain or raw tanks, but this wastewater contains large amounts of sugar, starch, and brewer’s yeast mixture, so if it flows down as it is, there will be microorganisms unpleasant growing, so it must be treated before being released. As a result of the experiment, it was confirmed that the E. coli introduced by the research team had multiplied in large quantities in the beer brewery’s waste water. In contrast, Schwanella oneidensis could hardly reproduce in wastewater.

The research team said that instead of using energy to process organic waste, this is a system that kills two birds with one stone by processing organic waste and generating power at the same time. Tests with waste water recovered from beer brewery in Lausanne that current electricity microorganisms could not survive, but bioengineered microorganisms could not survive. It was revealed that the electric microorganisms that did this can multiply dramatically by using waste as food.

Areas where this research can be used are not limited to waste disposal. Since genetically engineered E. coli can develop from a variety of resources, a wide range of uses can be considered, including microbial fuel cells and biosensing. Relevant information can be found here.

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