09 April 2008

You Can Learn to Eat Like a Cow

Have you ever watched cows grazing in the fields and wondered what it would be like to spend your days in a pleasant green field, cogitating. Perhaps you have secretly wished that you, too, could survive by eating grass? Mariam Stickler, PhD, of Michigan State University, has developed a clever technique for genetically engineering plants, that may eventually allow you to eat like a cow and fulfill that secret wish.
Using genes taken from a microbe found in cow stomachs, Mariam Sticklen of Michigan State University, East Lansing, and colleagues were able to grow corn that produces a key enzyme needed to break down cellulose, the fibrous material found in the stalks and leaves of corn.

...The team has been growing the transgenic corn, known as Spartan Corn, since 2005. The first version carried a single enzyme from a microbe found in hot springs and capable of breaking cellulose into large pieces...The second version, Spartan Corn II, which was unveiled in 2007, uses an additional gene found in fungus to produce an enzyme that takes these cellulose pieces and breaks them into pairs of sugar molecules...Spartan Corn III employs both of these prior enzymes as well as a third, beta-glucosidase, from a microbe found in cow stomachs, to separate paired molecules into simple sugars. These sugars can then be readily fermented to make ethanol.

..."The enzymes are locked in the vacuoles until we grind the plants up at the end of their life," says Sticklen, who presented her work on April 8 at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. ___NS
Of course, most people are stuck on the idea of using the cellulose-into-sugar to ferment ethanol. But imagine entire fields of grass, made with this genetic modification. And you, in the middle of that field, chewing, and chewing, and chewing . . . watching the clouds go by . . . seeing automobiles full of people driving along the road . . . and wondering . . .


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Blogger Bruce Hall said...

We might have to have our teeth genetically re-engineered to handle the abrasiveness of the corn plants, too.

Wednesday, 09 April, 2008  
Blogger Richard Sharpe said...

These sugars can then be readily fermented to make ethanol.

Ahhhh, a worthy project, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

Wednesday, 09 April, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Perhaps, Bruce. Or maybe we can run the stover through a food processor before grazing?

Richard, the way things are going, corn stalks will be dripping ethanol in the fields. It'll get harder and harder to get a lick of work done.

Wednesday, 09 April, 2008  

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