Biotech Updates

Scientists Discover Antarctic Microbes For Future Biotech Applications

April 20, 2011

A team of researchers led by Jenny Blamey, a biochemist and director of the Biosciences Foundation, discovered more than 200 new species of microorganisms adapted to living in extreme environments. Blamey and colleagues discovered the extremophiles in the South Shetland Islands during the Antarctic Scientific Expedition 47 organized by the Chilean Antarctic Institute. Among the several surprising finds is the microbe that could survive at 95oC though it has spent its life encased in ice. They also found a bacterium belonging to a group known as Deinococcus which can tolerate γ-ray exposures 5,000 times greater than those survived by any other known organism, despite living 15 meters beneath the permafrost. These levels of radiation have never been found on earth thus the origin of the bacterium's resistance is a big mystery to scientists.

"We seek to understand the molecular mechanisms that grant such levels of resistance. We wish to determine which mechanisms this microorganism possesses in order to protect itself from the effects of radiation, as well as conceive their potential applications," she says.

They also found a number of bacteria resistant to ultraviolet rays which according to them, might have practical biotechnology applications in the future by protecting people against solar and UV radiation.