A team led by Ron Milo, a systems biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, led a team who used a method known as directed evolution to make the E.coli bacteria consume carbon dioxide instead of their normal “food”, sugar. Mr Milo and his team combined genetic engineering and lab evolution in order to come up with a strain of the bacteria capable of extracting all its carbon from C02.
The findings have been highlighted in the latest issue of New Scientist magazine, and offer a theoretical solution to stop the damage to the environment caused by harmful greenhouse gases escaping into the atmosphere.
Mr Milo admitted he did not expect such “dramatic changes” to the microbe’s natural growth cycle.
The report, published in scientific journal Cell, said: “We constructed and evolved Escherichia coli to produce all its biomass carbon from CO2.
“Reducing power and energy, but not carbon, are supplied via the one-carbon molecule formate, which can be produced electrochemically.”
Mr Mile told Nature World News his primary aim had been to create a “convenient scientific platform” to make dispersal of CO2 easier.
He added: “The workhorse of biotechnology in converting the carbon source of E-coli from organic carbon into CO2 is a significant step towards establishing such a platform.”
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Additionally, it raised the possibility of converting waste products into something useful – for example, the C02 generated by the steel or concrete industry into insulin.
Mr Milo said: “The study could also serve as a platform to better understand and develop the molecular mechanisms that are the basis of food production and help increase yields in agriculture.”
Meanwhile Professor Frank Sargent, of Newcastle University’s School of Natural & Environmental Sciences, said the breakthrough raised “endless” possibilities.
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He added: “This type of directed evolution is already a Nobel prize-winning type of science and this is a terrific example of why.”
The report coincides with claims that tighter government climate regulations by 2025 could wipe up to £1.75trillion ($2.3 trillion) off the value of companies in industries ranging from fossil fuel producers to agriculture and car makers.
Rules aimed at lowering carbon emissions are expected to accelerate in the coming years as countries scramble to meet obligations under the 2015 Paris climate agreement limiting global warming.
However, any abrupt policy shifts risk severely disrupting current investment strategies, UN-backed Principles of Responsible Investing (PRI), a group representing investors with $86 trillion of assets under management, said in a report.
PRI Chief Executive Fiona Reynolds said: “As the realities of climate change catch up, social pressure mounts, and low carbon solutions get cheaper, it’s highly improbable that governments will be allowed to let the world sleep-walk into greater rises in temperature without being compelled into forceful action sooner.
“This poses huge threats for assets and for the wider system.”
Last week it emerged global carbon emissions had risen again this year – but more slowly than in the past two years.
Emissions from burning fossil fuels are projected to be up 0.6 percent in 2019, to reach almost 37 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA), University of Exeter and the Global Carbon Project said.
The annual rise in carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas driving rising global temperatures, is less than increases of 1.5 percent in 2017 and 2.1 percent in 2018.
Levels of pollution are growing more slowly because of falling coal use in the EU and the US and slower growth in the use of the fossil fuel in China and India.
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