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Crop Biotech Update

Stanford Researchers Find New Form of Cellulose

January 31, 2018

Stanford scientists have found a new type of cellulose, called pEtN, in Escherichia coli.

This study, led by Lynette Cegelski, was originally aimed to investigate the matrix of slime-like materials that surrounds microbes and protects their communities. In this latticework, the team found a modified form of cellulose. It had been missed by previous research since traditional lab techniques involve chemicals that destroyed the matrix.

This new form of cellulose had properties that could make it an improvement over other sources to produce ethanol for fuels. The modified cellulose doesn't form crystals and is relatively soluble in water, which the researchers think could make it easier and significantly less expensive to convert into glucose for producing ethanol.

Cegelski and her team then explored the structure of the new cellulose as well as the genes and molecules involved in making it. Cegelski is now trying to introduce these genes into plants.The team is also exploring the mechanical properties of pEtN compared to other forms of cellulose and to search for other applications.