An incredible scientific breakthrough has occurred – entirely by accident.
Researchers have created a mutant enzyme without meaning to, but the result could actually help solve the global plastic pollution crisis.
The enzyme eats plastic bottles and breaks down the component much faster than the centuries it takes when dumped in the oceans.
This new research was prompted by the 2016 discovery of the first plastic-eating bugs present at a Japanese waste site.
2 years later and scientists have now managed to determine the complex structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug in question.
The international study lead to the enzyme being tweaked in the process, but this made the molecule (inadvertently) even more productive, as the leader of the research, Prof John McGeehan (from the University of Portsmouth) explained: “What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock. It’s great and a real finding.”
The brainiacs behind this study are now positive that they can further improve on this finding and can speed up the procedure to the point where it becomes a feasible large-scale process.
We could find our global plastic pollution problem a thing of the past – fingers crossed!
> Hannah Montgomery