Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Bugs Brew PLA Direct

A team from South Korea’s KAIST University and the chemical company LG Chem, have developed a one-stage process which produces our favourite fabrication material, polylactic acid, and its copolymers through direct fermentation of starch. They've genetically engineered E.coli to do the job, which makes the production of PLA cheaper and more "commercially viable."

There are undoubtedly patents on this, and I don't know how the separation process works, but cheaper biodegradable feedstock for the current generation of RepRaps and the ability to basically brew the stuff in a vat will doubtless have an impact on both RepRap technology and our greed for oil.

Vik :v)

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Are there any reprappers who are also genetic engineers out there? My ideal would be a yeast (rather than a bacterium) that turns starch into PLA using an open-source GPLed metabolic pathway.

Get splicing in your kitchen!
I'm loving how these blog posts are taking a biological/chemical bent. Finally something I can apply my degree on =).

For those of you that are more interested in how it was done, and whether it could be reproduced in yeast via BioBricks and the such, the journal article is here: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/123188463/abstract

It was buried beneath an article and an incorrect journal reference =S.

I'd love to work with a biologist on this.
Looks to be a good step forward to mass Replicating
Here is a related abstract which appears to deal a little more with the genetics involved:
Anybody care to spring for the full article and post a summery for purposes of study and research?
Interestingly, as I read it part of the process involved force mutating some of the genes and then batch testing for efficiency. If true this might move the resulting genes from the area of invention to that of discovery, and thus not patentable (in USA, YMMV, consult your very expensive patent lawyer before proceeding). Also interesting is that they were able with some further jiggering to create similar polymers using pure glucose as a feedstock rather than relatively less common specified starches.
i study microbiology and like the interdisciplinary approach of open source biotech and CAD+reprap. Biobricks and Cambia.org's patent lens seem great places to start.
From the paper and our conversation in #reprap on freenode, it looks the plasmids responsible for PLA synthesis are known. However, they are presented as granules in the e.coli, it is not deposited. The researchers lysed the cells and used a centrifuge to extract them. On top of that the PLA was identified with mass spec, so I'm not sure what the purity is like.

Also, I'm not sure whether we can replicate this in yeast. I don't know if it is possible to insert genetic material in the same way that we do in e. coli. There is a yeast researcher that we collaborate with sometimes. I'll ask him about it soon.
Vik that's a brilliant find
Vik that's a brilliant find
This topic is very interesting. Any updates?
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