Human Gut Bacteria making Biofuel

human gut bacteria

Biofuels used in transport in Europe

Researchers find that human gut bacteria can help in the production of biofuel in the future.

Another news item about the diverse function of the bacteria in the gut. This microbiome have many function as I’ve reported about earlier in many different stories. Researchers have been searching for bacteria that can break down plant fibers to create sugars. These sugars can then be used to make biofuels like ethanol.

Human Gut Bacteria used in Biofuel production

When conduction this search the researchers investigated cow rumen and termite guts to find bacteria that effectively can break down plant fibers to sugars. They found a species of bacteria in cows that fit the profile called Prevotella bryantii. This bacteria up-regulates a specific gene when it digests the fibers. After searching a database for similar genes in other bacteria they found two types of human gut bacteria.

Theses two bacteria species express the enzyme found in the cow bacteria, only difference was that the human variant was more effective. When looking for why this was the case the researchers found that the enzyme in question was actually two enzymes. These two enzymes work in concert with one another where one binds the cellulose i.e. plant fiber. The binding enzyme shreds up the fiber so that it’s companion enzyme can break it down into sugar.

This research findings open up the possibility that human gut bacteria being used in biofuel production. This would be an upswing for production of biofuels that really could bring the cost down. In biofuel production today they use sugars or other forms of human foods. It would make more sense to use byproducts of the lumber industry with no other use as a source for this production.

image credit: Oxfam International in accordance with CC BY-NC-ND 2.0