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Fungi from goat’s stomachs could lead to better biofuels, study finds


March 18, 2016
By Biofuels International

March 18, 2016 – Researchers have revealed through a new study that fungi from the gut of herbivores like goats, horses and sheep could be used to make biofuel.

The researchers report in the journal Science that these anaerobic gut fungi perform as well as the best fungi engineered by industry in their ability to convert plant material into sugars that are easily transformed into fuel and other products.

“Nature has engineered these fungi to have what seems to be the world’s largest repertoire of enzymes that break down biomass,” said Michelle O’Malley, lead author and professor of chemical engineering at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

These enzymes — tools made of protein — work together to break down stubborn plant material.

The researchers found that the fungi adapt their enzymes to wood, grass, agricultural waste, or whatever scientists feed it. The findings suggest that industry could modify the gut fungi so that they produce improved enzymes that will outperform the best available ones, potentially leading to cheaper biofuels and bio-based products.

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