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Study: Biofuel cells without the bio cells

Posted by tumicrobiology on October 30, 2006

U.S. scientists say proteins rendered portable from the organisms that spawned them might make miniature bioreactor cells feasible.

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory say they have become the first to measure electrical charges shuttled by proteins removed from living cells.

The scientists say some proteins are enzymes that taxi electrons to chemicals outside the cell, to discharge excess energy generated during metabolism. That maintains energy flow in the cell and, in turn, keeps the cell alive.

Now, the scientists say for the first time they have observed that electricity-shuttling process taking place sans cells, in purified proteins removed from the outer membrane of the versatile, metal-altering soil bacterium Shewanella oneidensis.

“We show that you can directly transfer electrons to a mineral using a purified protein and I don’t think anyone had shown that before,” said Thomas Squier, senior author of the study.

The research appears in the current issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International. All Rights Reserved.

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