Research News

Biofuel from microorganisms

New Delhi, February 27: The biofuel sector could get a boost, with researchers at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) here developing a method to improve the growth rate and sugar content of a marine microorganism called Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002. Most biotechnological processes, including biofuel production, are dependent on the availability of low-cost and sustainable supply of sugars and a nitrogen source. The sugars typically come from plants. Plants utilize light energy through the process of photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into biological components such as sugars, proteins and lipids. However, some bacteria, such as the cyanobacteria (also known as blue-green algae), too can perform photosynthesis and produce sugar by fixing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The yield of sugars from cyanobacteria could potentially be much higher than that of land-based crops. Further, unlike plant-based sugars, cyanobacterial biomass provides a nitrogen source in the form of proteins. Cyanobacteria are found in both fresh and marine waters. Using marine cyanobacteria could be better as freshwater is increasingly getting scarce. However, there is a need to significantly improve their growth rates and sugar content in order to improve the economic feasibility of marine cyanobacteria-based sugar production. A team from International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology has achieved this. Dr. Shireesh Srivastava, Group Leader of the System Biology for Biofuel group of the Centre and an investigator in the DBT-ICGEB Centre for Advanced Bioenergy Research, and Jai Kumar Gupta, a Ph.D. student at ICGEB led the team. They have successfully engineered a marine cyanobacterium called Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002 which showed a higher growth rate and sugar (glycogen) content. When grown on air, the growth was doubled and the glycogen content of the cells increased by about 50%. Speaking to India Science Wire, the leader of the study team, Dr. Srivastava, noted that Synechococcus sp. PCC 7002 is a model marine cyanobacterium and there were other Synechococcus species or related organisms where this work can be extended right away. “We are conducting several follow-up studies related to this work including scaling up the cultures…

Health News

Now glucose monitoring through saliva too

New Delhi, December 26 : Diabetes cannot be cured but it can be managed. Its management becomes difficult when a patient has to monitor it every day through piercing his or her finger to check the blood sugar level. Now an international team of researchers hasself-powered glucose biosensor technology base device that can measure the blood sugar level through saliva samples also. This device can work inside the body without using any external electrical energy.   By Jyoti Singh Continuous monitoring of fluctuating sugar level in blood is often required for patients with diabetes. Implantable glucose biosensors could mitigate the painful finger-pricking process. However, the electricity requirement for the implantable glucose-sensing devices is the major challenge, making the implantation a complicated process. “The team has demonstrated a linear response to glucose at concentrations relevant for non-diabetic and diabetic saliva. The sensor will be useful for the quick, accurate and early detection of abnormalities in metabolism that helps monitor, control and prevent many metabolic disorders, including diabetes” said Dr P. Tamilarasan, Scientist and research team member, Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – Central Electrochemical Research Institute (CSIR-CERI). Any implantable electrical or electrochemical device requires electrical energy for its operation. Producing electricity inside the human body is a challenging task. This complete device can function inside the body without external electricity supply. In this technology, an electron-transporting n-type semiconductor polymer and an enzyme are used to extracts electrons proportional to glucose level in bodily fluid. The polymer based electrode that can be used for glucose sensing as well as electricity generation. On the other hand, an enzymatic fuel cell using same materials has been developed to generate electricity using the glucose in bodily fluids. Glucose is sensed by a transistor made up of the polymer which is powered by the enzymatic fuel cell made up of the same polymer electrode using glucose as a fuel. The generated energy is sufficient enough to operate an organic electrochemical transistor type glucose sensor. The enzymatic fuel cell could be utilise glucose to power other implantable electronic devices. Currently, the research team has developed the materials and demonstrated its operation quantitatively and qualitatively. Further studies on device…