Biochemistry / chemistry

Blogs about biochemistry and/or chemistry

An article published in the journal “Metabolic Engineering” describes a research that aims to improve the production of certain biofuels using bacteria of the species Escherichia coli (or E. coli). A team from the Washington University in St. Louis led by Fuzhong Zhang found a way to modify E. Coli to solve a production problem with a result that can be useful for other purposes as well.

A graphene membrane, in red, with silicon atoms in yellow (Image courtesy Oak Ridge National Laboratory, US Dept. of Energy. All rights reserved)

An article published a few days ago on the journal “Nature Nanotechnology” describes a research on a new technique for the desalination of seawater using a porous membrane made of graphene. This material is considered revolutionary in the field of electronics for its characteristics but research like this are showing that it can also be very useful in other fields. In the case of desalination, its use can make it much more efficient needing much less energy to get drinking water.

Ames scientists Michel Nuevo, Christopher Materese and Scott Sandford with one of the equipment used in their research (Photo NASA/ Dominic Hart)

A group of scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center created uracil, cytosine and thymine, three nucleobases that are among the chemical components of RNA and DNA. This result was obtained by reproducing the conditions existing in the space, even interstellar. Obtaining these molecules by non-biological processes shows that at least part of life’s building blocks may have arrived on Earth after being formed in space.

To create the three nucleobases, NASA scientists started from pyrimidine, a molecule composed of hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen. It was found in meteors so there’s the certainty that it exists in space. Uracil, cytosine and thymine are derived from pyrimidine and the experiment aimed to verify that it was possible to obtain them under the conditions found in space.

A most anticipated analysis in the mission of the space probe Rosetta concerned the water present on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The reason is that scientists are looking for a definitive answer to the problem of the origin of water on Earth. Comets are among the main candidates but the analyzes revealed by ESA and published in the journal “Science” show that the water analyzed by Rosetta is different from that on Earth.