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Gut fungi in cows could revolutionise biomass technology

Scientists are looking at the way relatively unknown fungi works inside the guts of herbivores, including cows, in the hope it holds the key to revolutionising biomass technology.

Olivia   Midgley

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Olivia   Midgley
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The research has shown gut fungi are able to achieve plant biomass conversion effectively
The research has shown gut fungi are able to achieve plant biomass conversion effectively

 

Prof Theodorou, leader of the Agricultural Centre of Sustainable Energy Systems at Harper Adams University, is among a group of scientists researching potential benefits of gut fungi.

 

Currently biomass processing is expensive, as costly biological and chemical pre-treatment steps are needed to enable plant biomass to be successfully digested.

 

This is then followed by fermentation of released sugars by yeast to produce products such as bio-ethanol.

 

The report was published online by the American journal Science.

 

Prof Theodorou said: “The objective of our work was to find an alternative, more straightforward platform, mimicking the conversion of plant biomass to useful products in nature.

 

 

“In our work so far, we have identified hundreds of enzymes from gut fungi, which have commercial biotechnology potential. It is because these fungi are able to survive in the gut in such a highly competitive microbial ecosystem where a myriad of protagonists seek to compete with them to degrade plant biomass that we believe they are so effective at their jobs.

 

“Gut fungi are able to achieve plant biomass conversion effectively and without the need for chemical pre-treatment.

 

“We have so far shown some of these enzymes are substantially better than the current solution at converting plant biomass to sugars.”


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