Biofuels research continues to unveil tantalizing possibilities. Two reports this past week from the University of Wisconsin and ORNL caught my eye.
University of Wisconsin researchers have developed a super yeast, a strain of saccharomyces that will eat both glucose and xylose. The story of how they achieved that is intriguing. As one who writes about science and technology, I particularly appreciated the analogy used by the unidentified writer in the UW news release. “[They] gave the yeast a choice akin to eating carrots for dinner or nothing at all, surrounding S. cerevisiae with xylose until it re-evaluated its distaste for xylose or died.” After 10 months and hundreds of generations, of “directed evolution,” a strain was found that converted xylose. The researchers identified the specific gene mutations, and then were able to successfully reverse engineer the parent strain to consume xylose as well.