Latest Protein Spotlight: Of plastic and men

Nature has extraordinary resources. Here we are trashing her land, sea and atmosphere - and have been for over a century now - with all sorts of chemistry she didn't ask for and which, sooner or later, will prove to be harmful to those who are putting it there.

Despite this, sometimes she manages to find ways of twisting something bad into something good. Polyethylene terephthalate, also known as PET, is one. It is a plastic we have all heard about, man-made and widely used in industry for clothing but also for liquid and food containers, and is frequently shaped into the form of plastic bottles. PET - like other plastics - is piling up on Earth, slowly making its way into ocean sediments and more alarmingly into the food chain. Recently, a team of Japanese researchers discovered a new species of bacterium that has found a way to live off PET thanks to a hydrolase which seems to have evolved especially for this, and has been coined: PETase. Read more.

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