In our innovative world, problems continue to strain our engineering limits. Fortunately, microorganisms have solved many of these problems. Though this may be true, we still need to find and implement them. In this article, I will discuss 2 major uses for microbes.
One major pollutant in many streams and lakes is hexavalent chromium: chromium that has 6 more protons. Used mainly in the tanning industry as a leather preserver, it causes many negative effects as well as being a carcinogen. The ecological issues stem from improper disposal of the heavy metal. Leather refineries run chromium waste into rivers. Once this happens, it becomes hard to clean the heavy metal. It kills the ecosystem.
One example is the Yamuna river in India where pollutants have decimated the river. Here, it becomes especially dangerous: the river is a source for drinking water. Chromium cannot be removed through simple filters because activated carbon in the filters is not able to absorb the heavy metal. People end up absorbing the heavy metal and it damages their tissue.
Chromium resistant bacteria are one of the few organisms that can solve the problem. The microbes produce an enzyme called chromium reductase that turns the chromium into trivalent chromium. The product contains three extra protons but the ion is actually needed to stay healthy. Although a large quantity of the heavy metal is still harmful, an ecosystem can still thrive.
These microbes create an effective and relatively inexpensive solution to take the harmful heavy metal out of water.
Many doctors view pancreatic cancer as an incurable disease. This is due to the low 7 percent five-year survival rate. The reason for this is due to how deep the pancreas is in the body. Symptoms don’t appear until the cancer has metastasized. Metastasis occurs when the cancer moves to another organ. However, early detection of pancreatic cancer can result in high survival rates of up to 61 percent. Due to this, many researchers have begun to look for biomarkers. With this said, the cutting edge pancreatic cancer research has been done on the role of the microbiome.
The gut microbiome accounts for all the bacteria, fungi, and viruses in the gut. The interest for researchers lies in the interactions between pancreatic cancer and various microorganisms. Already, many risk factors for pancreatic cancer have been linked to changes in the microbiome. This means that a biomarker can likely be sourced.
If a successful biomarker can be discovered, the five-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer will increase. Cheaper and more accurate screening procedures will be created.
Nowadays, there are very few bioengineering practices that utilize microorganisms. This is due to the perception that microbes cause additional problems when entering foreign places. Especially when injecting microbes into humans, allergic reactions pose a serious threat. The danger involved loses the appeal of ‘live’ therapies. Many of these perceptions aren’t even out of the question. This makes it even more important to ask these questions. Be that as it may, I think microbes have a huge potential and should be researched more.