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Extremophile Protein Cleans Wastewater

Extremophiles are very cool. If you haven't heard the term, extremophiles are living creatures -- typically bacteria -- which are able to thrive in environmental conditions long thought to be too hot/too cold/too acidic/too radioactive/too deep in solid stone/etc. for life to exist. (The plenitude of extremophiles on Earth is one reason why xenobiologists are starting to think that Mars may actually harbor life.) It turns out that the biology that lets extremophiles live in nasty circumstances can often be of great use for what's called bioremediation. We've mentioned, for example, bacteria in the genus Geobacter, which devours various kinds of minerals, including radioactive waste.

Now comes a report at Genome News Network that a protein extracted from an extremophile microbe found in a geyser at Yellowstone National Park may provide a cheap, efficient, and natural method of cleaning hydrogen peroxide out of industrial wastewater. The protein from the microbe (Thermus brockianus) lasts -- in the lab, at least -- 80,000 times longer than the current industrial cleanup methods. What's more, the proteins can be filtered out and reused. Hydrogen peroxide cleanup is an ongoing problem in the textile and paper industries, where H2O2 is often used as a bleaching agent.


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