Biotech Updates

Algae can Derive Foods from Plants, Research Finds

November 21, 2012

A research study from Bielefeld University is believed to bring a major impact on the future of bioenergy. Algae, a group of organisms which were previously believed to solely rely on photosynthesis in terms of acquiring food, were found to have the ability to digest vegetable cellulose and use it as a source of carbon for their growth and survival.

In a series of experiments, scientists cultivated the microscopically small green alga species Chlamydomonas reinhardtii in a low carbon dioxide environment and observed that when faced with such a shortage, these single-celled alga can draw energy from neighbouring vegetable cellulose instead. The alga secretes enzymes (so-called cellulose enzymes) that ‘digest' the cellulose, breaking it down into smaller sugar components. These are then transported into the cells and transformed into a source of energy: the alga can continue to grow.

The scientists are also studying whether this mechanism can also be found in other types of alga. Preliminary findings indicate that this is the case. In the future, this ‘new' property of algae could also be of interest for bioenergy production as breaking down vegetable cellulose biologically is one of the most important tasks in this field.

View the original article in German at