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US-UK TEAM DEVELOPS COCKTAIL OF PLASTIC-EATING ENZYMES

The scientists who re-engineered the plastic-eating enzyme PETase have now created an enzyme 'cocktail' which can digest plastic up to six times faster, ScienceDaily reported.

A second enzyme, found in the same rubbish dwelling bacterium that lives on a diet of plastic bottles, has been combined with PETase to speed up the breakdown of plastic. PETase breaks down polyethylene terephthalate (PET) back into its building blocks, creating an opportunity to recycle plastic infinitely and reduce plastic pollution and the greenhouse gases driving climate change. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


PET is the most common thermoplastic, used to make single-use drinks bottles, clothing and carpets and it takes hundreds of years to break down in the environment, but PETase can shorten this time to days. The initial discovery set up the prospect of a revolution in plastic recycling, creating a potential low-energy solution to tackle plastic waste. The team engineered the natural PETase enzyme in the laboratory to be around 20 percent faster at breaking down PET.


Now, the same trans-Atlantic team have combined PETase and its 'partner', a second enzyme called MHETase, to generate much bigger improvements: Simply mixing PETase with MHETase doubled the speed of PET breakdown, and engineering a connection between the two enzymes to create a “super-enzyme,” increased this activity by a further three times. The team was co-led by the scientists who engineered PETase, Professor John McGeehan, Director of the Center for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) at the University of Portsmouth, and Dr Gregg Beckham, Senior Research Fellow at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the US.



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