Scientists create artificial living material that absorbs chemicals from water: it can be the salvation of mankind

Dmytro IvancheskulNews
Water pollution is an environmental and humanitarian problem that can affect human health

Scientists have managed to create a living material that can purify water from hazardous chemicals discharged by industrial enterprises. As a result of the purification, which was carried out in the laboratory, industrial dyes turned into harmless substances.

Scientists from the University of California in the United States have succeeded in this. They described their research in a scientific article for Nature Communications and a short article for The Conversation.

Water pollution is a global concern as it is estimated that the chemical industry discharges 300 to 400 megatons of industrial waste into water bodies every year. Such pollution is not only an environmental problem but also a humanitarian one that can affect ecosystems and human health.

That is why the scientists set out to create a living material that would not only absorb chemicals but also break them down into components, turning them into safe substances.

During the study, they created an artificial living material that contains programmed bacteria embedded in a soft hydrogel material printed on a 3D printer in the form of special shapes: grids and honeycombs.

The hydrogel is somewhat similar in properties to jelly: it is just as soft and consists mostly of water. It was created from a natural and biodegradable polymer based on seaweed.

By using a hydrogel that scientists compare to human tissue, they were able to implant bacteria into this material that can grow and develop by receiving nutrients from the environment.

Photosynthesizing cyanobacteria that capture sunlight were embedded in the hydrogel as well. As the researchers explained, cyanobacteria have different genetic patterns that tell cells what products to produce. Thus, the scientists modified the bacterial DNA so that the cells created a specific enzyme called laccase.

This enzyme carries out a chemical reaction with the pollutant and neutralizes it, breaking the chemical bonds and turning the toxic pollutant into a non-toxic one.

Importantly, after the reaction is complete, the enzyme is regenerated and can be used again to treat water.

During laboratory tests, the scientists placed this living material in a solution consisting of industrial pollutants to see if it could clean up the dye. It turned out that the material was able to remove all the color from the bulk of the dye in about ten days.

They also said that they engineered the bacteria to produce a protein that can damage the bacterial cell membrane and prevent the bacterial cells from being washed out after water treatment.

Currently, the material is still being worked on, but the researchers already consider their development very promising.

Earlier, OBOZ.UA reported that artificial intelligence created a robot that walks on air in 26 seconds.

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