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Bioremediation - Using Microorganisms to Treat Wastes

The term remediation itself is derived from the word remedy. A remedy to the problem of wastes. Bioremediation is the process of treating wastes from biological entities like microbes. The most commonly used microorganism in the process of bioremediation is bacteria. The microbes degrade a waste matter into a more simpler or non toxic form by various metabolic processes which involves a number of enzymes. The microorganisms may have the potential to remove the target waste partially, completely or into a form that is readily perishable. Bioremediation of soil as well as air can be performed. However, remediation of soil is more common than air.

The management of waste with effective techniques has always been a subject of concern for humans. Since decades man have been using the methods such as composting, landfills, etc in order to treat various types of wastes. The process of creating a landfill includes concealing the waste under a land mass in which the wastes that are readily biodegradable by microbes are treated whereas the non-biodegradable wastes remain in the soil. However, composting is the method for treating only organic wastes which are biodegradable. Landfills as well as composting both methods use tiny micro organisms to treat various organic waste products.

Genetic engineering in bioremediation

Various techniques of genetic engineering can be used to remediate a target waste. Genetic engineering can manipulate the genes responsible for the metabolic pathway of an organism to carry out the desired remediation of the target waste. In order to control an organism by using genetic engineering techniques, one should have a prior knowledge about the type of waste which is to be treated as well as the microorganism which needs to be genetically modified. In comparison to the natural microorganisms, the genetically modified ones tend to show better results in the process of biodegradation of wastes as they are designed to perform effecient bioremediation. The two major techniques used for genetically modifying a strain of organism in bioremediation are:

1. Pathway restructure

In this method the catabolic process of a microbe is either extended or modified to breakdown such target waste materials which could not have been degraded by the natural wild type species. It involves the modification of existing pathway and not a new one.

2. Pathway assembly

The method of arranging a whole new pathway for the remediation of target wastes. The catabolic pathway of a microbe can be designed by using methods of genetic engineering in order to breakdown wastes.

Suicidal GEMs 

The effects of genetically modified microbes on the environment are a subject of concern for many. Some fear that the modified genes may interact with components of the environment and induce gene transfer and give rise to a new organism whosebeffect on the environment would be unknown. Therefore, there have been several researches wherein suicidal genetically engineered microbes (GEMs) are used to remediate wastes. The suicidal GEMs are designed in such a way that after performing the process of remediation, they undergo a procedure of killing themselves. Henceforth, removing the genetically engineered microbes from the environment. Thus, the environmental remediation can be effectively carried out by a variety of tiny microorganisms.


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